Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has welcomed the publication of a Sinn Féin five year plan for apprenticeships, as a positive and practical measure to address the failure of the Government to tackle youth unemployment. The Sinn Féin TD believes that the lack of any new Government initiatives in this area is leading to another lost generation who are faced with no real hope of well-paid employment or access to third level education after finishing secondary school.

The Sinn Féin plan on apprenticeships aims to provide 46,000 apprenticeship places by 2022 and increase the number of apprenticeship programmes from the current 30 to 100. Deputy Seán Crowe said: “In July of this year there were 32,237 people under the age of 25 signing onto the live register in this State. This is far too many and collectively as a society we need to be looking for new ideas and proactive proposals, as the current Government’s response to youth unemployment is clearly not delivering for many vulnerable young people. “The lack of any new initiatives in this area is leading to another lost generation who are faced with no real hope of well-paid employment or access to third level education after finishing secondary school.

“There are very few opportunities outside formal education for unemployed young people to obtain skills and experience that will benefit them. Apprenticeship courses offer a tried and tested method of developing highly skilled workers using a mixture of course work and practical on the job learning. “The disparity in unemployment figures also means that many urban areas of high intergenerational  poverty are not only  hit by high numbers of people without a job, but these same people have a huge mountain to climb to break that cycle. “Our aim with this five year strategy is to significantly expand the apprenticeship system, open it up to more people, and allow apprentices to gain valuable experience in a wider range of industries. This will grow the economy but also bring real hope into young workers lives.”

Deputy Crowe continued: “Sinn Féin’s new proposals include a plan to increase apprenticeship course programmes from 30 to 100 and giving 46,000 apprenticeship places by 2022. “Sinn Féin wants to make the apprenticeship system more accessible to people with a disability, and increase the female participation rate. For example in 2016, only 33 apprentices out of the total apprenticeship population of 10,315 were female. Developing a centralised application system will also take the ‘need to know someone’ aspect out of getting that start to an apprenticeship. “We want to provide another significant avenue, to give people the widest possible choice in their education and career prospects. Apprenticeship training can allow people to earn, learn and gain work experience whilst also working towards a qualification. In addition it will at the same time help equip Ireland with the highly skilled and motivated workers it needs for growing and emerging industries in the coming years.

“Apprenticeships in the construction and motor industries are highly developed and well regarded in Ireland, but we want to expand this success to other areas including green energy, hospitality, retail, manufacturing and the financial services. “The Government have also proposed expanding the apprenticeship system, but their progress to date has been extremely slow and goes nowhere near to meeting the challenge facing those 32,237 young people on the live register. We need to think big to rebuild our economy, think differently to give greater choices to young people, and enhanced apprentices programmes have to be part of any solution.”