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 apprenticeships 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.
You can get advice on apprenticeships: Freephone 1800 794 487 from 12 noon to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
It was announced in Budget 2023 that the student contribution fee for apprentices will be reduced by up to 33% as a once-off measure before the end of 2022.
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, the first off-the-job training phase will take place in an Education and Training Board (ETB) while the subsequent off-the-job training phases 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 and, 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 areas of industry
Apprenticeships introduced from 2016 on 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 and hospitality include software development, accounting technician and commis chef.
You can search for apprenticeships on apprenticeship.ie.
Funding supports for apprenticeships
The Traveller Apprenticeship Incentivisation Programme pilot project offers bursaries for members of the Traveller community to access apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship employer awards
Certain employers who provide apprenticeships can get an apprenticeship employers grant of €2,000 per year for each registered apprentice.
Employers can also avail of a gender-based bursary.
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 in 2016 and after: 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.
How to apply for an apprenticeship
Apply directly to 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.
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.