A new generation of apprentices in Ireland will include workers in the blue-chip financial services sector alongside traditional blue-collar trades. Many new opportunities will start opening up later this year in areas well beyond the construction, aircraft maintenance, printing and motor industries normally associated with the apprenticeship system.
Financial services is just one area that will recruit apprentices for the first time, following a report presented to the education minister Jan O'Sullivan by the apprenticeship council.
The variety of apprenticeships will effectively double from 27 to 52. As well as financial services, other new sectors will include information technology and hospitality.
The minister set up the council to oversee development of new apprenticeships across a wider range of occupations. The expansion goes hand-in-hand with a revival in opportunities in traditional areas.
While Ireland is a European leader in terms of young people with degrees, it lags behind in apprenticeships.
The minister is still considering the report but she confirms that 25 new types of apprenticeships will go ahead. She wants the first of these to begin enrolling by the end of this year, with others coming on stream next year. Depending on the apprenticeship, training will run for between two and four years.
Economic recovery has seen an increase in interest in traditional apprenticeships, with more than 3 000 people expected to start one this year. The hope is that, by 2018, up to 5 000 new apprentices will register each year. These figures do not include apprentice recruitment that will come in the sectors being added to the system.
Before the economic crash in 2008, apprenticeship numbers - at all stages of training - hit more than 28 000 a year, but fell to below 6 000 by 2013. Currently, there are about 7,500.