The government is actively exploring the practicalities of including apprentices in student card schemes.
While apprentices are considered employees while training, there have been calls locally for apprentices to be on an equal footing to students who receive special discounts for travel and retail.
Letterkenny Councillor Jimmy Kavanagh raised a motion at last September’s meeting of Donegal County Council asking that apprentice students could gain the same access to the student card scheme as college/university students.
“It is important students who do take the apprenticeship route are encouraged to do them as much as possible and there is no reason they should be considered any less important than those who take the academic route,” Cllr Kavanagh said.
The Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins TD, has responded to the council to say that the feasibility of the benefit is being explored.
The Junior Minister said apprentices are paid during their training and are not considered full-time students.
“While apprentices’ current status as employees’ dictates that they are not considered full-time students we are actively exploring the feasibility of their inclusion in such schemes,” Minister of State Collins said.
“In the meantime, as part of Budget 2023 I announced a cost-of-living package for students, and investment in third level education for 2023. Included in this was a once-off reduction of up to 33% in the contribution fee for apprentices and additional funding for social inclusion measures in apprenticeship, such as a bursary for apprentices from under-represented groups.
“Finally, as employees, apprentices who find themselves in difficulty are correspondingly entitled to access general employment supports through the social welfare system. I would also advise any apprentice to discuss the matter with their Authorised Officer who may be in a position to provide guidance. “