Industry-led Apprenticeship launched to meet growing skills gap

A new apprenticeship to fill the skills gap faced by Irish equipment manufacturing firms will be launched by Joe McHugh TD Minister for Education and Skills and Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Innovation and Enterprise at Combilift, Annahagh, Monaghan on Monday 14th January 2019 at 11.00am.

This Advanced Certificate in Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) is a three-year Level 6 apprenticeship, with a focus on the engineering and manufacturing sectors. It is supported by Enterprise Ireland and a consortium of leading mid-Tier engineering Irish companies. This new apprenticeship was developed by the engineering companies in conjunction with education and training boards in Cavan and Monaghan, Limerick and Clare.

Speaking at the launch Martin McVicar, Managing Director, Combilift and chair of the industry-led consortium behind this apprenticeship, said that this new apprenticeship with many of the other industry-led apprenticeships, will drive Ireland from an exclusively knowledge-based economy, to one that has a stronger emphasis on skills.

“This new apprenticeship will help meet the evolving skill set requirements of engineering and manufacturing companies. This is crucial as many firms are reporting shortages of qualified skilled employees, which are capable of designing, assembling and trouble-shooting machinery for the future. These are skills which combine mechanical, hydraulic, electronic, software and robotic technologies. This apprenticeship offers individuals the opportunity to develop these essential skills in an earn, learn and live it environment while completing training and hands-on experience with an employer and receiving an internationally recognised qualification.”

Combilift’s Managing Director believes that this new apprenticeship will drive employment across the country. “This apprenticeship will become a key contributor to the strategic recruitment and planning process of many indigenous and international organisations based in Ireland. Employers have committed time and effort to its development. There are jobs and strong career opportunities throughout the country and internationally for those who complete this apprenticeship. It is time that we promote the apprenticeship route with the same enthusiasm which we do for degrees.”

There were just over 201,000 people working in the manufacturing sector in Ireland in 2016 according to the Central Statistics Office, making it one of the largest sectors of employment in the State, after retail and the health services sector. There are 12,790 manufacturing enterprises throughout the country. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) companies range in size from SME’s to large indigenous and multinational companies.

Irish manufacturing firms recorded the highest increase in industrial production across all EU countries in the year to August 2018, according to Eurostat figures. Manufacturing now accounts for almost a third of all economic output by GDP, double the share of a decade ago, and well above the global average.

Manufacturing firms play a critical role in the Irish economy as a driver of exports, as an employer, as a source of revenue and as a driver of growth. There is also significant spin off effects, such as indirect employment supported in other sectors including services and logistics. Manufacturing firms based in Ireland source approximately €14 billion of materials and services from Irish based suppliers.

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Combilift’s Managing Director believes that there is a need to review the perception of apprenticeships. “Young people completing their second level education are often encouraged to prioritise third level college degrees to the determinant of other options. Despite an increase in the number of applicants for apprenticeships there is a perception among parents and careers advisors across Ireland that it is a fall-back option. The idea that apprenticeships are only for those students that do not achieve high grades has to change. This apprenticeship offers a very credible career path for high achieving students who are looking for a rewarding career in engineering and manufacturing.”

Mr McVicar, a past winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year, acknowledges that there are many options for those with 400+ Leaving Cert points but strongly argues that “this apprenticeship also offers a rewarding and challenging career path from the day the apprentice starts. When employers are hiring, they don’t advertise for someone with knowledge they specifically state that they are seeking someone with skills and this apprenticeship combines knowledge, skills and industry experience. The brightest and best of our students should be encouraged to consider this option. Career advice and decisions that are driven by school league tables are not serving our children or our country well. The pressure to get a third level degree with the hope of a good job at the end is not always beneficial to students or our economy.”

This apprenticeship is aimed at school leavers who have completed their Leaving Certificate, or mature applicants, who wish to pursue a career in this area. This work-based learning will be carried out in an industrial setting and provides the apprentice with the opportunity to practise the skills acquired in the off-the-job phase in the ETBs and to develop new workplace skills and competences. During the work-based stages the apprentice will build up a level of experience while working alongside senior technicians, supervisors and managers in specific, relevant work contexts. The apprentice will also attend off the job education and training, on a block release basis over the three-year period.

Speaking at the event, Mr John Kearney, Chief Executive, Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board (CMETB) outlined the training programme and the potential progression routes for students completing this apprenticeship. “This new apprenticeship opens up exciting new opportunities for participants in terms of applied skills development but also the prospects of life-long learning. Graduates of the OEM Apprenticeship will have the potential to continue along specific learning pathways up to and including Level 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications. This apprenticeship will provide skilled OEM apprentices, and offer credible career paths and progression routes in Institutes of Technology in Athlone, Sligo, Dundalk, Carlow and also University of Limerick.”

The OEM Apprenticeship is open for recruitment from today 14th January 2019. The programme development and delivery of the apprenticeship is funded by SOLAS, the state agency responsible for education and training.

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