We have seen first-hand the impact that the pandemic has had on younger people especially. They have borne a disproportionate impact from the closure of the economy and we need to do everything we can to help them, especially as they embark on their careers.
On Monday, the Minister of State for Skills, Niall Collins, helped launch the Government’s National Action Plan for Apprenticeships. This will set the pace for implementation of a new, and long overdue, approach to apprenticeships in the years ahead.
I believe that a broad-based education and training system is absolutely crucial for economic and social progress. In fact, apprenticeships are considered to be the main route in countries like France and Germany. Learning skills on the job, complemented with in-class education is a really good way to teach practical use of skills, as well as the soft skills which employers seek but which also help people to participate fully in society.
There are some really positive aspects to the plan announced this week:
- A National Apprenticeship Office which will lead the implementation of the programme, but will also be a champion for apprenticeships as the HEA is for universities leading to 10,000 apprenticeships a year by 2025;
- A focus on getting more women into apprenticeships. The gender gap in apprenticeships now is far too large and we need to reduce it;
- The public sector is leading the way – committing to creating up to 750 apprentices a year. I’ll be asking what role South Dubli
n County Council can play in supporting this approach.
It is really important that employers are supportive of this approach, and that is why it is good to see assistance for employers is front and centre here, including non-financial supports targeted to SMEs in areas such as recruitment and supervision of apprentices.
I am really glad that our education and training system is moving away from a sole focus on universities as the only way to tertiary education. Further education and apprenticeships should be important and equal pillars too.
Equipping people with the right skills is so important and sets them up for success – I am really looking forward to the implementation of the plan and seeing apprenticeships fully integrated into our education system.