Government of Ireland
Regional Skills

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Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2015

19 April 2021 

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins TD, have today (Monday) launched the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025.


The Action Plan sets out a five year strategy to deliver on the programme for Government commitment of reaching 10,000 new apprentice registrations per year by 2025. The plan provides a roadmap to a single apprenticeship system and new supports for employers and apprentices.

It will also:

  • Create a new National Apprenticeship Office to drive reforms;
  • A new grant for employers, with a top-up grant for areas of identified national skills needs and/or targeted recruitment of underrepresented groups such as female apprentices, or lone-parents, people with disabilities, or members of the Travelling community;
  • Non-financial supports targeted to SMEs in areas such as recruitment and supervision of apprentices;
  • Set targets for the public sector to take on apprentices and to create cross-sector apprentices;
  • Examine the potential development of new cross-border apprentice programmes and support apprentice engagement in international programmes such as Erasmus.

Minister Harris said: “People learn in different ways and I want to make sure that everyone is aware apprenticeship can be for them as a route to a qualification into the future. The overall apprentice population will grow to over 30,000 registered apprentices in the next five years. In particular we want to ensure that there is equal access for everyone to apprenticeships, irrespective of their background, gender or age. ”We have listened to businesses and employers too and will introduce further supports to make it easier to take on an apprentice and offer you the financial support to do so. “This plan has the potential to transform this part of our third level system. Apprenticeship is good for the learner and the employer.”

Minister Collins said: “This action plan is based on feedback from enterprise, the education and training sector and apprentices themselves. “It builds on the apprenticeship system in Ireland, including the strong relationships between employers and the education and training sector and the established collaborative approach between the further and higher education sectors in managing and delivering apprenticeship. “This Plan will make it easier for employers and apprentices to engage with apprenticeship, supporting and driving innovation in the workplace through responsive and topical programmes.”

The Plan also requires public sector employers to increase the level of apprentice recruitment to the public sector to reach 750 new apprentice registrations per annum by 2025. 

The intention of the Action Plan is to fully embed apprenticeship as an option within the national education and training system, transforming apprenticeship from a well-established route to a career in niche areas (the craft professions) to a well-established route to a broad range of careers and which is attractive to employers and learners. By 2025, apprenticeship will sit firmly within the broader education and training landscape as a core offering.

Apprenticeship in Ireland is currently managed in two different ways (Craft and Consortia-led apprenticeships). The Plan is based on learnings from operation of the two models of apprenticeship, best international practice and feedback from stakeholders, employers and apprentices. During the consultation process for the Plan over 60 stakeholders responded to a written consultation process; 3750 apprentices responded to a web-based survey and 350 SME employers provided feedback through the Regional Skills Fora network.

The information gathered during the consultation process has informed five high level objectives for the Action Plan which are set out below:

Objective 1: A High Quality and Innovative Approach - Apprenticeship will deliver the highest quality of work-based learning, supporting and demonstrating innovation to empower apprentices and employers to meet current and emerging skills needs. 

Objective 2: Employer-driven Responses - Apprenticeship will be recognised and valued by employers across all sectors of the economy as a key mechanism for building a highly skilled workforce, contributing to productivity and sustainable growth.

Objective 3: Apprenticeship for All - The profile of the apprenticeship population will more closely reflect the profile of the general population.   

Objective 4: A Valued Option - Apprenticeships will be available and recognised as a work based learning opportunity, providing sought after qualifications across the tertiary education and training sector.

Objective 5: A Single Cohesive System - There will be a single apprenticeship system underpinned by a clear governance framework with strong stakeholder input

 Impacts on employers and learners

The Plan will make it easier for employers to engage with the system through:-

  • a baseline employer grant towards the cost of apprenticeship for non-craft programmes
  • a top-up grant for areas of identified national skills needs and/or targeted recruitment of underrepresented groups
  • non-financial supports targeted to SMEs in areas such as recruitment and supervision of apprentices

 These supports will become available in the next financial year. Jobseekers, career changers and students seeking to continue their education will be able to access apprentice jobs in a much more straightforward manner. All apprentice vacancies will be available on a single web portal, providing transparency and ease of access to jobs.

These changes will be supported through a reformed apprenticeship structure.  Over the duration of the plan, all apprenticeship programmes will migrate to a single apprenticeship governance system.  Employers, education and training providers and sectoral stakeholders will manage the delivery of apprenticeships on a programme specific basis.  These apprenticeship consortia will be supported by a National Apprenticeship Office (NAO) which will bring together the apprenticeship functions of SOLAS and the HEA into a single office, further facilitating the already strong cooperation across the sector further and higher education structures to support apprenticeship.  Stakeholder oversight and input will be embedded across the system through a National Apprenticeship Alliance (NAA) which will comprise employers, learners, social partners and education and training providers.

All apprenticeship opportunities, including an increased number in the public sector, will be advertised on or linked from with clear guidance on expected recruitment dates for programmes with group intake. Financial supports will be given to employers to help with the cost of hiring an apprentice and non-financial supports will simplify their engagement with the apprenticeship system.

The Plan promotes access, diversity and inclusion in apprenticeship by offering targeted supports to encourage participation from under-represented groups such as women, those with disabilities and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.  An apprentice bursary/support scheme will be established in 2022 to fund up to 100 apprentices per year who are experiencing severe socioeconomic disadvantage and who are from target groups, including lone parents, people with disabilities, Travellers and Roma.

Further information on further and higher education options are available at

 The Action plan is available at

For more information please download the informations packs: Action-Plan-for-Apprenticeship--2021-2025.pdf (size 2 MB) ;Apprentieship-Action-Plan-FAQs.pdf (size 887 KB)