Understanding of apprenticeships in the national context

    Q1. Is there an official definition of 'apprenticeships' in your country?

    The Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland (2013)[1] defines apprenticeship as follows:

    “Apprenticeship is a programme of structured education and training which formally combines and alternates learning in the work place with learning in an education or training centre (a dual system, i.e. a blended combination of on-the-job employer-based training and off-the-job training), whose completion:

    • prepares the participant for a specific occupation; and
    • leads to a qualification nationally recognised under the National Framework of Qualifications at any level from Level 5 upwards.

    Every apprentice should be employed under an approved Contract of Apprenticeship for the duration of the training. Apprenticeship training should be substantial in depth and duration, and the apprentice should be employed in a real job. For a programme to be classified as an apprenticeship at entry level, it should have a duration of no less than two years. The structure of the programme should provide for more than 50% workplace-based learning.

    Q2. Which apprenticeship schemes exist in your country?
    At upper secondary level: Yes
    At post-secondary / higher level: No
    At sectoral level: No

    Traditionally craft Apprenticeships in Ireland have been limited to 26 designated occupations[1] and are subject to statutory obligations of the Industry Training Act 1967 (discussed below).

    Following an evaluation process undertaken by the Apprenticeship Council – actively involving social partners, further education bodies and the Department of Education and Skills – 25 new industry-led apprenticeships are in development to meet the needs of the labour market. It is expected that they will range in duration from two to four years, and will be offered at Levels 4 to 7 on the European Qualifications Framework (ISCED 3-7).


    [1] Traditionally, the apprenticeship system in Ireland has been oriented towards young males. The construction related trades in general account for approximately 80% of all apprentices (ReferNet report Ireland: 2014).

    Q5. How well-established are apprenticeships in your country?
    A long history
    A recent history (in 2000s)
    No history yet, they are still to be established as a pathway

    Historically, apprenticeships in Ireland were part of a medieval guild system. Training given apprentices, was delivered on the job and under the Agriculture and Technical Instruction (Ireland) Act 1898.  In 1926 the government established a Commission on Technical Training and the work of this Commission culminated in the passing of two acts, The Vocational Education Act 1930 and The Apprenticeship Act 1931. The Vocational Education Act 1930 (2) and The Apprenticeship Act 1931[1].

    In summary, apprenticeships were first regulated in the first half of the 20th century through two acts:

    • The Vocational Education Act 1930; and
    • The Apprenticeship Act 1931.

    [1] McCarthy (1976) Apprenticeships in Ireland. Collection studies. Social policy series no. 33. Brussels. July 1976.