Dublin Labour MEP Emer Costello has welcomed the publication of the report of the Review Group on Apprenticeship and said that implementation of the recommendations could make a major contribution to tackling youth unemployment in Ireland. However, Ms. Costello added that the impact of the report would be greatly diminished if the government proceeded with plans for the introduction of expensive fees for apprentices attending educational institutions.
“I welcome the initiative shown by the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, in establishing the Review Group and I hope that he will move quickly to have its recommendations implemented. We need to learn from the experience of other European countries where the apprenticeship system provides a very effective route into employment for many young people.
“In recent times vocational education has become the poor relation in our education system, but renewing and growing interest in this sector is a critical step in addressing youth unemployment. We need to show young people that entering an apprenticeship can be as personally fulfilling and just as effective a route into employment as entering third level. I particularly welcome the commitment by Minister Quinn to achieve a proper gender balance in apprenticeships.
“At a time when measures are being taken to encourage more people to enter apprenticeships, it seems inconsistent that the government should also be introducing a system of apprenticeship fees that will create a barrier to participation in vocational education. The new fees, which will range from €833 to €1,433, will prove prohibitive for apprenticeships who are amongst the lowest paid workers in the country.
“The government should examine the possibility of using EU funds, particularly the European Social Fund and the new Erasmus+ programme to support the provision of apprenticeships in Ireland, rather than loading high fees on apprentices themselves.
“I would appeal to Minister Quinn to suspend the introduction of the new fees and to urge him to meet the TEEU, the trade union which represents many young apprentices, to discuss how government, unions and employers can work together to reduce youth unemployment by having in place an effective and affordable apprenticeship system”.