Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle calls on Government to strengthen apprenticeship programme

Pringle calls on Government to strengthen apprenticeship programme

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has asked Government to address ways to encourage employers to participate in the apprenticeship programme and to retain apprentices in the system.

He said there was a big scope for apprenticeships, particularly in rural Ireland.

Deputy Pringle said: “For rural Ireland, and for my own town of Killybegs, people having apprenticeships and getting qualified in apprenticeships can live and work locally, and that’s going to be important.”

Addressing the Dáil on Tuesday evening, Deputy Pringle said: “I do sense that there is a problem out there in the public where employers don’t see the value in apprenticeships and there is a certain amount of risk from an employers’ point of view, in taking on an apprentice, training them and then the apprentice moves on.

“That is an issue that I think will have to be addressed. And it has to be addressed, I think, by a combination of employers actually paying apprentices properly and paying them then when the qualify properly as well.” Employers must also be shown that it has a value for them, he said.

The deputy said: “I’m wondering about what measures will be taken to ensure that apprentices will be retained in their apprenticeships, and that employers will retain offering apprenticeships as well.”

Responding to statements from Minister Niall Collins, Deputy Pringle said: “The figure sounds impressive of a 40 per cent increase in apprenticeship registrations in 2021, so that means that basically there were 16,000 apprentices last year and there’s now 25,000 this year.” However, he said, there is a lot to be done to make sure that the programme works.

The deputy raised the issue during parliamentary questions to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

Minister Collins said a key objective of the national apprenticeship action plan is to make apprenticeships more attractive to employers and learners and to ensure continued engagement. He said under the action plan, by the end of 2022 the National Apprenticeship Office will establish a performance framework to assess efficiency and effectiveness of apprenticeships – the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had highlighted the need for consistent and centralised reporting.

Deputy Pringle said: “From that – and there seems to be a lot happening, work-wise – but it’s going to be a long number of years before we see any statistics come out of that. And that’s a big issue because I believe that there’s a huge problem with actually retaining apprentices and making sure that apprentices can qualify, and paying apprentices so it’s worth their while to continue on. And I think that needs to be part of the measures that they’re going to be recording to ensure that happens.”

The deputy said: “I would push to make sure we start recording that quickly, because that will make a difference.”

In response, Minister Collins said he agreed with Deputy Pringle and said the issues he raised were something they have spoken to the National Apprenticeship Office in relation to, and to the director to make it a priority.