What is an apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is how people are trained in a craft trade or profession. You can get training in a traditional craft apprenticeship such as plumbing or carpentry or a new apprenticeship such as accounting technician – see ‘Types of apprenticeships’ below.
An apprenticeship programme provides on-the-job training with an employer along with off-the-job training in an education centre. An apprenticeship can last 2 to 4 years, during which time you will spend some time in off-the-job training.
When you complete an apprenticeship programme, you will get a recognised qualification at Level 5 or above on the NFQ framework.
You can start an apprenticeship from age 16 to 18 years depending on the apprenticeship programme. There is no upper age limit.
You can get advice on apprenticeships: Freephone 1800 794 487 from 12 noon to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
It was announced in Budget 2024, there will be a once-off reduction of 33% in the contribution fee for apprentices in higher education in the 2023/2024 academic year.
Types of apprenticeships
There are 2 key types of apprenticeships. The main craft trades and professions are set by SOLAS, employers and unions.
A craft apprenticeship will generally last for 4 years, during which time you will spend 3 different periods in off-the-job training.
Generally, you will start the first off-the-job training phase in an Education and Training Board (ETB). Later, your off-the-job training will be in a Technological University or Institute of Technology.
The skills you develop will be assessed through on-the-job competence testing as well as off-the-job modular assessment and examinations. If you complete these assessments successfully, you will be awarded an Advanced Certificate – craft (level 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications).
Craft apprenticeships include carpentry, plumbing, motor mechanics and electrical apprenticeships.
New apprenticeships in other industries
New apprenticeships introduced since 2016 lead to an award between Levels 5-10 on the National Framework of Qualifications. Each apprenticeship programme is between 2 and 4 years.
There are a number of models of on-the-job and off-the-job training, as well as different models of delivery and different target groups (including people already in employment).
Industry-led groups (consortia), work with education and training providers and other partners, to oversee the development and roll-out of new apprenticeships.
New apprenticeships in ICT, finance, hospitality, farming and the public service offer apprenticeship jobs in software development, accounting technician, commis chef, farm management and digital marketing.
You can search for apprenticeships on apprenticeship.ie.
Funding supports for apprenticeships
There are a number of supports for apprentices and employers. You can check for supports on the apprenticeship.ie website and with your local ETB.
There are financial supports to help young people from under-represented groups, those leaving care and the Traveling community to access apprenticeships.
- The Access and Inclusion bursary supports young people from under-represented groups into national apprenticeships.
- The Traveller Apprenticeship Incentivisation Programme (TAIP) offers a limited number of bursaries to members of the Traveller community.
- The Apprenticeship Bursary for Care Leavers will be available to support care leavers to take up an apprenticeship in 2024.
The bursaries can provide up to €3,000. You can request an application form and information from email@example.com
Certain employers who provide apprenticeships can get an apprenticeship employers grant of €2,000 per year for each registered apprentice.
Employers can get a gender-based bursary.
Small and micro business employers can get financial and training supports through One More Job if they employ one or more apprentices in 2023.
Generally, an apprentice does not pay fees. However, apprentices pay a pro-rata registration fee (student contribution) if their off-the-job training takes place within a college such as an Institute of Technology or Technological University. The registration fee is generally based on the amount of time the apprentice spends in the college. You can find information about the pro-rata registration fee on apprenticeship.ie.
Apprentices are not eligible for the student grant.
Apprenticeship wages and allowances
Rates of apprenticeship wages and allowances can vary depending on the type of apprenticeship and the industry you have chosen:
- Apprenticeships developed before 2016: While you are training on the job, your employer will pay you a recommended apprenticeship wage. The ETB pay a weekly allowance equivalent to that wage while you are training off the job. In some cases, the ETB will contribute to your travel and accommodation costs. You can get information about off-the-job training payments and allowances for craft apprentices.
- Apprenticeships developed from 2016: Your employer will pay you for the duration of the apprenticeship. The rate of pay is agreed between you and your employer.
Annual leave: Your statutory holiday entitlements continue to accrue during the off-the-job phases, but must be taken during the on-the-job phases at times agreed with your employer.
Apprentices who have children: Working Family Payment (WFP) is a weekly tax-free payment for employees with children. If you are an apprentice and you have at least one child you may qualify for WFP, if you meet the conditions for WFP.
How to qualify for an apprenticeship
To be eligible for an apprenticeship, you must be at least 16 years of age and have a minimum of grade D in 5 subjects in the Junior Cycle or equivalent exam. However, higher educational qualifications and other requirements may be required by employers.
If you don't have these qualifications, you may still register as an apprentice with an employer if you:
- Complete an approved preparatory training course followed by an assessment interview.
- Are over 18 years of age and have at least 3 years of relevant work experience, in which case you will also be asked to do an assessment interview.
You will be asked to pass a colour-vision test for some apprenticeships.
You can find the qualifications needed in the programme information for each apprenticeship programme.
How to apply for an apprenticeship
Access to Apprenticeship Programme
You can apply for an Access to Apprenticeship Programme. The programme supports people aged 16 to 24 years from under-represented groups into national apprenticeships. The 12-week programme is currently provided by TU Dublin and TU Shannon.
Apply directly to an employer
You can also approach an employer to ask if they will consider taking you as an apprentice.
All employers must be approved by SOLAS before they can hire an apprentice. Employers can find information about how to become an apprentice employer.
Employers and apprentices must sign a formal contract agreeing they will meet certain conditions and that the employer will pay you for the length of the apprenticeship.
If you are interested in a craft apprenticeship, you can also contact the Apprenticeship Section of your local ETB for details about applying.
Apprenticeships in other areas of industry
Apply to the industry lead or co-ordinating provider for the apprenticeship you are interested in. You can also contact the Apprenticeship Section of your local ETB for information.
For more information
For advice on getting an apprenticeship, call Freephone 1800 794 487 from 12 noon to 6pm, Monday to Friday.