Apprenticeships: a proven successful alternative route

When it comes to deciding on a career path to follow, the route that traditionally comes to mind is full time study in college or university. While many will take this route to their chosen career, it might not be for everyone.

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So is there another way of
getting a qualification that will
help you find employment in
your chosen career? Apprenticeships
are a respected alternative to full
time college or university courses.
These programmes alternate phases
of on-the-job and off-the-job training
and development, and provide an
opportunity to get a recognised
qualification while at the same time
gaining practical experience relevant
to your chosen career and being paid.

How does it work?

Generally, the duration of an
apprenticeship is a minimum of four
years consisting of alternating phases
of training – three off-the-job phases
and four on-the-job phases. The
ability to apply the knowledge gained
and skills learnt during off-the-job
phases spent in a training centre,
Institute of Technology or another
approved training provider, to the
day-to-day operations of a business,
is a key benefit of apprenticeship and
one which appeals to many. This
coupled with the benefit of earning a
salary while training further
enhances the appeal of
apprenticeship.

Apprentices are assessed on a
structured on-going basis throughout
their apprenticeship. Modular
assessments incorporating course
work, standardised practical
assessments and theoretical
assessments are carried out during
the off-the-job training phases. During
the on-the-job training phases of
apprenticeship the apprentice’s
competence is assessed to specified
standards by the employer.
On successful completion of an
apprenticeship a Level 6 Advanced
Certificate Craft is awarded.
Recognised both nationally and
internationally, this qualification
opens up further opportunities in
career development or progression to
study further. Those awarded the
Level 6 Advanced Certificate Craft are
also eligible for consideration for
entry into related degree
programmes in the Institutes of
Technology provided other special
entry requirements are met.

There are currently 27 crafts
available under the apprenticeship
programme in Ireland. However, the
number and range of apprenticeships
available is expected to increase with
the expansion of apprenticeship into
new sectors of the economy. The
recently established Apprenticeship
Council has been tasked with mapping
out the sectors where apprenticeships
can make a real difference to both
employers and employees.
Craft occupations under the
apprenticeship programme have
been designated by SOLAS and come
within the scope of the statutory
apprenticeship system, which is
organised in Ireland by SOLAS in
co-operation with the Department of
Education and Skills, the Higher
Education Authority, employers and
unions.

How do you become an
apprentice?

There are some minimum educational
qualifications necessary to become an
apprentice. You must be at least 16
years of age and have achieved a
minimum 5 D grades in the Junior
Certificate examination or equivalent,
or successfully complete an approved
pre-apprenticeship course. However, in
many instances employers specify
higher educational qualifications. If
you are over 16 years of age and have
at least three years’ relevant work
experience approved by SOLAS, an
apprenticeship might be an option for
you also. For some apprenticeships
passing a colourvision test is a
mandatory requirement. However be
warned. While this is the minimum
entry requirement, most employers require a leaving certificate, especially
if you are interested in an electrical or
plumbing apprenticeship.

To start an apprenticeship you
must obtain employment as an
apprentice in your chosen
apprenticeship by an employer who is
approved by SOLAS to train
apprentices. You may have a relative,
neighbour or friend who works in a
craft occupation or you may know a
company operating in the trade in
your area that might consider
recruiting you as an apprentice. Staff
in your local Department of Social
Protection Employment Services
office and senior training advisors in
your local education and training
board offices may
also be able to help with matching
job vacancies to registered individuals
where possible. Also, the CIF have
recently launched a new website,
www.apprentices.ie to assist young
people who are seeking an
apprenticeship in the construction
sector.
Employers too can reap the
benefits of apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship courses are based on
uniform, pre-specified and industry
agreed standards and comply with
current and future needs of the
occupation. Through the systematic
development and
assessment of skills, knowledge and
competencies, apprentices become
more productive and reach efficient
worker standards more quickly.
The demand for apprentices is
growing with the recovery of the
economy. There is a wide range of
construction related apprenticeships
currently available including trades
such as brick & stonelaying, carpentry
& joinery, construction plant fitting,
and electrical to name but a few. As
activity in the construction industry
continues to grow the demand for
skilled employees in these trades will
increase. A full list of trades covered
by the standards based
apprenticeship is available on
www.solas.ie and remember to check
out out www.apprentices.ie for all
you need to know about
apprenticeships.

(© Construction Magazine)

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