Several initiatives have been taking place during the European Year of Skills in Ireland, particularly boosting apprenticeships in sectors with high skill shortages.

During 2023, the National Apprenticeship Office, set up in 2022, became well-established, further strengthening the partnership between the enterprise and education communities. This office acts as a single point of contact for employers, apprentices and providers in accessing information and guidance on apprenticeship.

The National Apprenticeship Alliance continued meeting in 2023. This Alliance has an advisory role in developing the apprenticeship system, bringing together education providers, learners, industry partners and trade unions. A total of 67 national apprenticeship programmes were running at the start of 2023, and three new ones were introduced:

  • SportsTurf Management is a 2-year programme leading to a level 6 award on the Irish National framework of qualifications;
  • two Civil engineer technician programmes, one at level 6 (2-year duration) and the other at level 7 (3-year duration) were established in June.

One More Job was launched in April by the Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science ministry. It aims to encourage small employers to create ‘one more job’ via apprenticeship. It includes free online mentoring for employers new to training apprentices, grants towards training costs, and guidance from the One More Job team (based in the National Apprenticeship Office) during the first year of training. 

A first national survey of apprenticeship employers was conducted by the National Apprenticeship Office, with a strong response from over 2 500 employers covering the full range of the employer community. The survey findings show that most employers of apprentices are micro enterprises, with only 7% being large employers (over 250 employees). A remarkable 94% of employers employ fewer than 10 apprentices, with 42% having only one apprentice and the remaining 52% employing two to nine apprentices. For small employers, additional financial support is more important, while larger employers prioritise business growth and greater relevance of training.

The Workplace Champions Initiative was launched by the National Apprenticeship Office on 31 May 2023. These awards recognise and celebrate all those apprenticeship champions in the workplace who show commitment to the development and success of apprentices and apprenticeships as a whole.

A new bursary managed by National Apprenticeship Office was launched in 2023 to support learners from underrepresented groups who wish to access apprenticeships. The bursary is now up and running. Successful applicants on ‘access to apprenticeship’ courses are eligible to receive up to EUR 3 000 each to help with travel, accommodation and other costs associated with participation in the course.

Skills to Advance is a focused upskilling initiative for enterprises and employees, run through Education and Training Boards and coordinated through SOLAS. In 2023, Skills to Advance created a new process to develop and validate micro qualifications in key areas, such as green skills, digital business and manufacturing.

Retrofitting: the 5th and 6th Centres of Excellence for Nearly Zero-emission Building (NZEB)/Retrofitting were launched in 2023 to showcase the latest technologies and methods in the field. Planning a Modern Methods of Construction Demonstration Park began, led by the FET sector through SOLAS and the Laois/Offaly Education and Training Board. This aims to support the Irish Government’s commitment to high-quality, affordable homes for all citizens.

Green Skills. The Irish FET (VET) sector plays a crucial role in the green transformation of the economy and society, delivering the requisite skills to guarantee a greener future for all. The online module ‘Energy and you: reduce your use’ was made available in 2023 via eCollege, the national online learning service for further education and training. New level 4 and level 5 micro qualifications in environmental sustainability awareness were also developed.

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Please cite this news item as: ReferNet Ireland; Cedefop (2023). Ireland: addressing skill needs in the European Year of Skills. National news on VET

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ReferNet Ireland