€14.9m needed for education, training and access to apprenticeships

It’s time to invest in apprenticeships and get serious about tackling long term youth unemployment, says James Doorley, Deputy Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland
€14.9m needed for education, training and access to apprenticeships

Only 2% of apprentices are young women.

AT present, there are almost 2,000 young people from Cork city and county on apprenticeship programmes. While this is positive news, we want to see more young jobseekers in Cork and across the country given an opportunity to take up an apprenticeship.

This is why we need more investment in Budget 2020 to support young people into an apprenticeship and other employment and training measures if we’re serious about reducing long-term youth unemployment.

In our Pre Budget 2020 submission ‘A Fair Share for Young People and Youth Work’ the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), which represents youth organisations working with over 380,000 young people nationwide, is calling for an overall investment of €14.9 million in education, training and access to apprenticeships. These targeted measures, if implemented could halve the number of young jobseekers unemployed for 12 months or more, from almost 6,000 to 3,000 by the end of 2020.

€2.5m for Access to Apprenticeships

Among the measures we’re proposing is an investment of €2.5m in a national Access to Apprenticeship programme. We welcome the expansion and growth in apprenticeships in the last number of years. The number of apprentices in training in 2019 was 16,000 up from 10,445 in 2016 driven by a 110% increase in the number of new entrants between 2013 and 2018.

While there has been growth in the traditional and craft apprenticeships, such as in the construction, electrical, engineering and motor trade sectors, a number of new apprenticeship programmes have been developed in recent years. These include new programmes in financial services, biopharma, logistics and the ICT sector, which opens up the option to a wider cohort of young people. The advantage of an apprenticeship is that the apprentice is paid an agreed training rate so they can ‘earn while they learn’ both on the job work and during the training phases.

Only 2% of apprentices are young women

We support the overall Government commitment to increase the number of new apprentices, but more needs to be done to open up apprenticeships to young women, young people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and young people who are economically and socially disadvantaged and those who have limited formal qualifications.

At present only 2% of apprentices are young women and 2.8% have a disability. There is no data available on other categories such as young people who are socially and economically disadvantaged or those from a minority ethnic background. As we expand the number and range of apprenticeships, it is vital that these opportunities remain open to all young people, especially disadvantaged and underrepresented groups. At present the Government provides no funding to targeted measures to improve access to apprenticeships.

Extend successful Access to Apprenticeship model nationwide

The NYCI endorses programmes such as the Technology University (TU) Dublin Access to Apprenticeship (ATA) programme funded by the private sector that supports young people aged 16-24 from disadvantaged backgrounds, and with limited educational qualifications in Dublin. With Government support in the 2020 budget the ATA programme could be extended to Cork and other parts of the country, involving all the key stakeholders, such as the local Education and Training Board, Institutes of Technology, SOLAS, local employers and the local youth and community sector.

This programme provides supports and tackles barriers, which may prevent disadvantaged young people from opting for and being able to sustain an apprenticeship, with a particular focus on the long-term unemployed. NYCI is calling for an investment of €2.5m in a national Access to Apprenticeship programme based on 500 access places and a cost per participant of €5,000.

In addition as part of a package of measures to halve long term youth unemployment, NYCI is also proposing additional investment in the Youth Employment Support Scheme (YESS) in Budget 2020. We are calling on the Government to invest a further €5m in the scheme to meet the needs of at least 1,000 long term jobseekers. NYCI also recommends an additional €4.4m to support up to 1,000 young people under 26 into employment through the Back to Education Scheme (BTEA) and an additional €3m for the Job Plus Youth scheme which provides financial support to employers to recruit young people who are unemployed.

In total a targeted investment of €14.9m as detailed in our 2020 pre-budget submission could assist 3,000 young people who are unemployed for 12 months or more and halve the current long term youth unemployment rate. This would not only make a huge difference in the lives of the young jobseekers concerned and their families, but also would assist local employers and benefit our economy and our society as a whole.

James Doorley is Deputy Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland. The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) is the representative body for voluntary youth organisations in Ireland. Its members work with over 380,000 young people. It uses its collective experience to act on issues that impact on young people. www.youth.ie

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