Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle says change in funding apprenticeships may be needed to grow the programme

Pringle says change in funding apprenticeships may be needed to grow the programme

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said changes in the way apprenticeships are funded may be needed to grow an apprentice programme that provides for the education and qualification needs of many of our young people.

Addressing the Dáil today, Deputy Pringle said: “For too long, the focus has been on degree-level performance and that is seen as the only way to go with an education.

“At the moment in Donegal, outside of Letterkenny, practically the only way that our young people will be able to secure employment is through having a skill that would be gained by an apprenticeship, rather than a third-level qualification. That may be about to change but it will not be for a while,” he said.

The deputy said the need for those apprenticeships has to be recognised, and said employers also need to see the value in apprenticeships.

The deputy was speaking during statements on the Irish apprenticeship system.

Deputy Pringle said: “It seems that the movement to the situation where the employer pays for the salary of the apprentices during the education block release element is a barrier in securing more apprenticeships. We may have to consider going back to the system where Solas pays for the education element of the apprenticeship in order to see the expansion in the offerings.”

He said there also seems to be a difficulty, anecdotally, in employers retaining apprenticeships in sectors where there is a boom time operator. For example, he said, some employers have difficulty competing with wind farm developers who poach recent qualified apprentices for big-wage offerings.

The deputy said he would like to see statistics on the retention in employment of apprentices and an explanation of why they may move on.

Deputy Pringle said: “I think that we have a real problem in Ireland of employers recognising the value that their employees are to a business. Many businesses would be more successful if they valued their employees and recognised the value that they add to the offering.”

He said: “Solas highlighted the challenge of securing places for apprentices with employers in a recent Oireachtas committee report and I have to say that has been my experience as well, more than workers not staying with employers. Perhaps the change to the payment system that I mentioned earlier is a factor in this.

“It probably is in order to grow the number of apprentices that that system may need to be returned to where the state pays for the education element of an apprenticeship.

“When we realise that a successful business depends on good management and good staff working together for the benefit of everyone, then we might see a successful apprenticeship programme,” he said.