An apprenticeship is an exciting and proven way for employers to develop talent for their company and industry. Apprenticeships are designed by industry-led groups, supporting growth and competitiveness.

Apprentices earn while they learn and build valuable work-ready skills in a chosen occupation. Apprenticeships open up exciting and rewarding careers, with learning grounded in the practical experience of undertaking a real job.

Apprenticeship has long been an accelerator for individual and corporate development in Ireland. Generation Apprenticeship is a major expansion project to more than double the number of learners of all ages and backgrounds taking the apprenticeship route. See Action Plan 2016-2020. This promises to be a huge source of inspiration in opening apprenticeship into a full range of twenty-first-century industries and skillsets.

Helping more people discover and develop their talents through training is at the heart of the national apprenticeship system.

The key features of apprenticeships in Ireland are:

  • Industry-led  by consortia of industry and education partners
  • Lead to an award at Levels 5 to 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)
  • Between 2-4 years in duration
  • Minimum 50% on-the-job learning
  • Flexible delivery – online, blended, off-the-job learning in increments/blocks
  • Apprentices are employed under a formal contract of apprenticeship
  • The employer pays the apprentice for the duration of the apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is defined as a programme of structured education and training which formally combines and alternates learning in the workplace with learning in an education or training centre. It is a dual system, a blended combination of on-the-job employer-based training and off-the-job training.

The national apprenticeship system is governed by legislation, principally the 1967 Industrial Training Act. The legislation sets out the overall structure of the national system and the protections for as well as the responsibilities of apprentices, employers, and education and training providers.

Apprenticeship is overseen by a national Apprenticeship Council. The further education and training authority SOLAS is the lead agency responsible for apprenticeship on behalf of Government, working in close partnership with the Higher Education Authority, Quality and Qualifications Ireland, industry and education and training providers across further and higher education. SOLAS’ responsibility includes maintenance of a national register of employers approved to take on apprentices and a national register of apprentices.

The 2012 Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act also underpin apprenticeship, supporting validation and quality assurance arrangements for programmes nationally.

The national apprenticeship system is funded through the National Training Fund and from the Exchequer.

The Apprenticeship Council was launched by the Minister for Education and Skills in November 2014. The establishment of the Council was a key action in the implementation of recommendations from a 2014 Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland. The Council is tasked with the expansion of apprenticeship into new sectors of the economy and identifying sectors where new apprenticeships can make a real difference to both employers and employees.

The Apprenticeship Council, in accordance with the Apprenticeship Implementation Plan:

  • Develops Calls for Proposals for apprenticeships in areas outside of the existing apprenticeships
  • Examines and analyses proposals arising from the Calls for Proposals
  • Reports to the Department of Education and Skills on viable new apprenticeships – having particular regard to the sustainability of the proposals received
  • Monitors the development by industry and education and training partners of the successful proposals into new apprenticeships, including curriculum development, awarding arrangements, duration and entry-level.

In carrying out its role, the Council takes account of ongoing and future skills needs, including through data and reports produced by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.

The Council is enterprise-led with representatives from business, trade unions, further education bodies and the Department of Education and Skills.

A National Apprenticeship Advisory Committee (NAAC) advises the Board of SOLAS on apprenticeships in place prior to 2016. The Committee includes representation of employers, trade unions, education and training providers in further and higher education via an Institutes of Technology Apprenticeship Committee (ITAC), the Department of Education and Skills,  SOLAS and the HEA.

To support its work, the NAAC establishes working groups representative of the main stakeholders to develop guidelines on curricula, and a small group of experts, also representing the stakeholders’ reviews and develops apprenticeship curricula in accordance with the guidelines. The Committee also provides advice on the designation of new occupations in apprenticeship training, drawing on scoping studies.

Many apprenticeships are available in the following disciplines

  • Auctioneering
  • Biopharmachem
  • Construction
  • Electrical
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Hospitality and Food
  • ICT
  • Motor
  • Logistics
  • Sales
  • Hair