Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris recently said Ireland needs to drop the ‘snobby’ attitude towards further education. There are many ways to get to where one needs to get, he said, and going from the Leaving Certificate to university isn’t the only way to progress in life.
Donegal man Declan Erskine shares the same view, and he is proof of the success of apprenticeship schemes.
The 39-year-old Bruckless man is a Marine Engineer on a fishing trawler out of Killybegs. When we spoke last week he was working between Iceland and Norway, working full-time on onboard maintenance alongside two other engineers.
“From the toaster to the main engine, we are there to repair anything that needs it,” he explains.
Declan took an interesting voyage to get to this point in his career.
He started out after his Leaving Cert with an engineering course in Sligo IT but decided to change direction and embarked on an apprenticeship in Metal Fabrication.
Apprentices build strong practical skills and can work independently anywhere. A major benefit of apprenticeship training is that students get paid to learn and earn a salary from either their employer or through their training allowance, with improved earning potential on qualification.
Declan developed his Metal Fabrication skills over the four year apprenticeship and having gained his qualifications, continued with full-time employment.
He worked in the sector until the age of 33, when he joined leading engineering company KER Group.
When he wanted to boost his skills even more, he decided that another apprenticeship was the way to go.
“I was building refrigeration units, using fabrication, but I wanted to learn more about refrigeration and air conditioning. I asked to be put on this apprenticeship and finished it three years ago,” he said.
“The apprenticeship is a very good platform to lead to somewhere else,” Declan says, and he did just that when he netted an opportunity to join a fishing fleet in Killybegs.
Alongside maintenance, his role supports the fishing crew at crucial moments – from shooting the net off to hauling in the catch. The marine engineer also calculates where to store the fish to ensure the boat is balanced and stable.
“Just because you do one apprenticeship doesn’t mean you have to stick with it your whole life,” Declan adds.
This week is European Vocational Skills Week, and a chance to bring local vocational education and training opportunities into the spotlight. Declan’s journey from Leaving Certificate to marine engineer via the apprenticeship system is a great example of the opportunities available in the county. Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service facilitates employer-driven apprenticeships in a variety of sectors, including construction, electrical, engineering, finance, retail, motor, property services and sales.
Apprenticeships are important for addressing skills shortages, and the opportunities are there for the taking by employers especially at the moment with the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme whereby they can currently avail of a €3,000 payment for hiring new apprentices.
Declan points out there are other benefits for apprentices who take on dual learning – as they split their time between working with their employer out on the job and training with ETBs and ITs, they build strong practical skills and can work independently anywhere.
“It’s a great way of meeting new friends, you’ll stay in touch with them for life. And you get a good feel for third level during the blocks in the training centre and at the IT,” he said.
“I strongly recommend apprenticeships. I heard the Minister mentioning there is a snobbery towards apprenticeships and there shouldn’t be. He is right. You can get a good wage out of them and they are good environments to work in.
“They are just as good and as important a job as any other.”
Senior Training Advisor, Lorraine Murray, Donegal ETB Apprenticeship Services, explains that the first step for anyone wishing to do an apprenticeship is to find an approved employer willing to employ him/her as an apprentice.
Lorraine added: “An apprenticeship commences when an employer registers their apprentice with SOLAS by contacting Donegal ETB. In recent years the apprenticeship system has expanded to include many occupations outside of the traditional trade related areas and these apprenticeships vary in duration from 2-4 years with qualifications available from levels 5-10 on the National Framework of Qualifications.”
“We would encourage people to see the full list of available apprenticeship in Ireland on https://apprenticeship.ie/more/apprenticeship-directory and then to contact our Senior Training Advisors who will be happy to answer all questions and explain in more detail the options available in relation to apprenticeships.
If you are interested in pursuing an apprenticeship, simply contact Donegal ETB’s Training Advisors to find out how you can get started. Contact: Lorraine Murray on 074 9120506 (email firstname.lastname@example.org) or Claire Lernihan on 074 9120587 (email email@example.com).
Further information is also available on Donegal ETB’s website here: www.donegaletb.ie/apprenticeships.Tags: