Apprenticeships

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly am 3:15 pm ar 29 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP 3:15, 29 Ebrill 2024

T5. Mr Clarke asked the Minister for the Economy whether he has specific plans to introduce additional apprenticeship schemes. (AQT 235/22-27)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

There is a range of programmes that deal with apprenticeships. They are critical. As I said in response to one of your colleagues, when you go internationally in particular, you hear people saying that the attraction of here is the people and the skills. We need to ensure that we have sufficient skills. We used European funding for programmes to bring people into, and back into, the workforce, but Whitehall has not fully replaced that. We need to try to do more in that area.

I think that I said in response to an earlier question that the job of work that the Education Minister and I have agreed to do together is to ensure that young people understand the range of options that are available to them. We are not convinced that, in all schools, young people are told about the possibility of apprenticeships or of getting qualifications that are equivalent to degrees but that allow people to earn while they learn. Those are great options for young people.

Where we can get additional resources to provide additional courses — there are already quite a few — we will do that. We certainly want to make sure that people from a young age, and their parents, are fully aware of the range of options that are available to them. That is the piece of work that the Education Minister and I have agreed to undertake together.

Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP

Does the Minister accept that, sometimes, there are criticisms of apprenticeships and that apprentices are seen as cheap labour, particularly those for electricians, plumbers, bricklayers and so on, where there is a shortage? Does he have any specific plans to make apprenticeships more attractive so that apprentices feel more valued, rather than being seen just as cheap labour?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

The Member correctly identifies that not only are those good jobs and good skills to have but that they are transferable, wherever you go. We are also now in a situation in which people cannot get apprentices or skilled workers, such as people with construction skills and a whole range of others. There is a greater sense from employers — we need to keep encouraging this — that they value young people whom they bring in. Everybody whom we speak to is very keen to get young people into their workplace across all ranges of business and to give them the skills that they need in order to work in their business. There needs to be an understanding. Certain industries, or certain sectors of industries, should not think that apprentices are just a source of cheap employment. At a time when we do not have sufficient people in the workforce, it will be vital to get young people in and give them the skills and sufficient support to make them want to stay and continue to work in a business.