Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science, Simon Harris TD, recently announced that 17 new apprenticeship programmes will be developed this year, including three new agricultural apprenticeships (Farm Management, Farm Technician and Sportsturf Management).

These programmes support the Government’s goal of increasing apprenticeship applications to 10,000 per year by 2025. On the CAO (Central Applications Office) website, there is now a connection to the Generation Apprenticeship website (

Generation Apprenticeship is run by SOLAS and the Government of Ireland. On this website, prospective apprentices can search for apprenticeships under the “Get Started” tab, which show the range of industries currently offering apprenticeships.

Education and Training Board of Ireland

Aoife Berkery is the work-based learning manager (further education and training) at the Education and Training Board of Ireland (ETBI). She says apprenticeships should not be underestimated as an alternative route to a fulfilling career.

“Apprenticeships offer fantastic opportunities for any person looking at their career options, especially students preparing to sit exams next month. An apprenticeship allows you to earn money and become qualified while you are learning on-the-job, with an employer.”

Apprenticeships alternate between off-the-job training in an education centre and on-the-job training at the registered employer’s workplace.

They generally last two to four years and will prepare participants for a specific occupation. They always lead to a qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ); ranging from a Level 6 to a Level 10 (the Level 10 programme is equivalent to a Professional Doctorate in Engineering).

Wide range

There are currently over 60 apprenticeship programmes available in Ireland, with locations throughout the country. “The range of industries covered by apprenticeships has risen significantly over the last number of years,” says Aoife.

“They not only include computer and ICT (Information and Communications Technology), MedTech, insurance and hospitality, but also a huge variety of courses in green skills, with NZEB (Nearly Zero Energy Building standard) Training Centres of Excellence in Waterford-Wexford and Laois-Offaly ETBs, and three more to follow in Limerick-Clare, Cork, and Mayo-Sligo-Leitrim ETBs.”

Apprenticeships on offer

Damien Hussey provides aboriculture apprenticeship training through his Kinitty, Co Offally company Allwood Tree Care ( This two year programme culminates in a Level 6 qualification, with classroom learning taking place with the Galway-Roscommon ETB. Damien says the programme is creating opportunities for the entire industry, which currently suffers from a skills shortage.

“The theory end of it takes place in the classroom - how different trees grow in different soils, pests, diseases, fungus - they’d be learning these things in college and then applying them back here in the workplace. Galway Roscommon ETB have a huge range of trees up there and grounds where they can do their industry related tickets (certifications) – like chainsaw use and climbing.”

Like they say, a day in the field is worth ten days in the school. I started my apprenticeship two weeks after finishing my leaving cert

In Mallow, Co Cork, Dairygold Agri Business are recruiting for their new lab technician apprenticeship programme, in partnership with Ibec and Munster Technological University.

The programme will comprise of two days in a classroom and three days on the job as a fully contracted Dairygold employee. This apprenticeship starts in September, is two years long and participants will receive a Level 6 qualification.

Thérèse Enright is the HR Generalist at Dairygold Agri Business ( She says apprentices will be trained in testing for different trace elements in their state-of-the-art lab.

“We’re a commercial analytical lab, so we are testing trace elements and we’re doing testing for our farmers and other labs, as well. We test different things (grass, soil, etc.) to look at more sustainable ways of farming; to help our farmers know what they need to do.

“Our apprentices will learn the principles of science, lab techniques and lab safety, basic chemistry techniques and will also obviously develop softer skills, written and verbal skills and time management.”

Philip Ryan, Farrier Apprentice

Philip Ryan is a 24-year-old apprentice from Cashel, Co Tipperary. He is nearing the end of his training to become a farrier; working with horses. He says his apprenticeship has suited both his interests and learning style.

“Going to college would be great for craic, but personally I felt I might be wasting my time as I’m more hands-on as a learner. Like they say, a day in the field is worth ten days in the school. I started my apprenticeship two weeks after finishing my leaving cert.

It takes about four years to become a farrier; it’s a Level Six once we’re finished and it’s a worldwide recognised qualification. When you start, it’s divided into seven phases. Four of them are on the job and then three are off the job, based in the RACE College [Irish School of Farriery] in Kildare. There, we’d do mostly shoemaking in the forge, so it’s 99% hands on.

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