Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has accused the government of failing apprentices as the number waiting to access off-the-job training passes 10,000.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“It is truly alarming that apprenticeship waiting lists to access off-the-job training still continue to rise.
“The Minister confirmed to me today that there are now over 10,000 apprentices that are waiting to get the training they need to advance or complete and apprenticeship. 3,500 have been waiting for over a year.
“Some have been waiting even longer. I was contacted during the week by a plumber from Mayo that has been waiting over two years to get a place.
“I have been highlighting these issues with the department for months. Despite repeated assurances that action would be taken, waiting lists continue to spiral out of control.
“We have seen the waiting lists increase from 6,928 in March to over 10,000 confirmed today. That means that over half of all apprentices are on a waiting list to get the training they need.
“Apprentices I have spoken with feel abandoned. This has serious implications for not only their educations, but also their income. Through no fault of their own, many apprentices will be trapped on apprentice wages for years longer than they should.
“No other cohort of student are treated in this way. At the same time as the government is talking about the safe return of further and higher education to campuses of tens of thousands of people, we have a situation where apprenticeship system is continuing to deteriorate.
“Despite the amazing efforts of administrators and teaching staff across the country, apprentices are being badly let down when it comes to getting the education they need.
“Covid has seriously disrupted training but the government has had sufficient time to put measures and additional capacity in place to at least mitigate the situation.
“This is not solely the result of Covid. A lack of interest and investment in apprenticeship training predates the pandemic. This is evident in the fact that over 3,500 apprentices have been waiting over a year to access their course.
“Now we are facing a backlog of training that needs to be done to allow apprentices to become qualified tradespeople and other forms of professionals.
“Every one of these apprentices represent tradespeople and other professionals sorely needed for the post-pandemic recovery.”