SOLAS announces plan to address backlog in craft apprenticeship training

Over 4,800 apprentices currently on a waiting list for off-the-job, or workshop-based training are on track to commence their training by the end of 2021. This represents 40% of those currently waiting. 100% will be returned to workshop-based training in 2022.

The backlog, which developed due to COVID-19 restrictions, will be cleared under a new plan launched today by SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority.

SOLAS has been working with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, the Higher Education Authority and apprenticeship training providers to develop the plan and implement innovative solutions to address the training backlog.

Apprenticeship off-the-job training is provided by the 16 Education and Training Boards, Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities.

Apprentices, once qualified, will support the construction, electrical, engineering and motor sectors.

Welcoming the launch of today’s plan, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD said: “Craft apprentices have been deeply impacted by the closures of workshops due to the Covid-19 public health measures in place in 2020 and early 2021. These closures resulted in a training backlog, which SOLAS comprehensively addresses today with this plan. I am keenly aware of the impact that these delays have had for apprentices and the frustration they have felt. That is why the Government has invested €20 million in funding to address this head on, to increase the number of places and to recruit new staff.

“I understand the vital importance of getting these apprentices back into their programmes as quickly as possible, and I want to reassure apprentices that those who have been waiting the longest will be prioritised. I’d like to thank all the education partners that have worked so hard to ensure this happens. Getting apprentices back on track as soon as possible is a key priority for my Department, SOLAS and all education partners.”

Minister of State with responsibility for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD said: “Government is absolutely committed to apprenticeship and its future as a growing and vitally important route from education into the workplace.  We have supported businesses to keep going during the pandemic and it’s important that apprentices feel that support as well.  Apprentices and their employers want to be back in on-site training and we’re going to get them there.”

Commenting today, Mary Liz Trant, SOLAS Executive Director said: “SOLAS is acutely aware of the difficult situation the Covid-19 pandemic has created for craft apprentices and their employers. We thank them for their patience while we have developed the emergency plan to deal with the situation.

“Given the practical nature of craft apprenticeship training, we have worked with the apprenticeship training providers around the country on innovative solutions to ensure apprentices receive top quality training and get back on track towards achieving their qualification. A large number of additional staff are being recruited, along with adaptations to delivery approaches at Phase 2 and additional training places. We send our thanks to the teams in all the centres and colleges for their commitment to delivering this additional capacity. We look forward to making steady progress through the backlog over the coming months.”

Plan to address backlog

Craft apprenticeships account for 25 of the 62 existing available apprenticeship programmes. There are seven phases in these programmes, three of which are delivered ‘off-the-job’ in Training Centres, Institutes of Technology or Technological Universities in blocks of study ranging from 10-22 weeks in duration. Apprentices undertake learning with their employers ‘on-the-job’ for the remainder of their programme.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of apprenticeship workshops created a backlog of over 11,000 apprentices waiting to complete these three training phases – Phase 2 training, Phase 4 training and Phase 6 training respectively.

SOLAS and the Education and Training Boards have developed a plan to address the backlog at Phase 2.  Delivery of the Phase 2 curriculum is being adapted to combine online with onsite training and additional staffing so that the number of apprentices completing their training can be increased and the pace accelerated. This emergency approach will remain in place until the backlog at Phase 2 is removed.

The number of training places at Phases 4 and 6 has been increased, and additional workshops and staff put in place. Those apprentices who have been waiting longest will be the first to receive their training place.

Projected progress for 2021 and 2022

The additional investment in supports, as well as training providers re-commencing in September at full capacity will mean that by the end of December 2021, the respective proportion of apprentices returned to training will be:

  • 35 per cent of Phase 2;
  • 40 per cent of Phase 4; and
  • 60 per cent of Phase 6 apprentices.

Subject to continued access to workshops and training facilities in addition to the rollout of additional places, it is expected that the majority of craft apprentices waiting for off-the-job training at Phases 4 and 6 will be called in the early months of 2022.

The waiting list for Phase 2 apprentices is expected to be completely cleared by the end of 2022.

Further updates on the backlog progress will be published on