Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, has suggested changes to JobsPlus Youth, to make the scheme workbetter for apprentices and to assist and incentivise small businesses to hire them.

“Currently small businesses have no incentive to take on apprentices, due to the way apprenticeships are set up. Apprenticeships involve block periods working on the job and block periods in training centres. It’s very difficult for a small business to take on an apprentice when they know that person will have to spend weeks away from their work in education.

“It would be really beneficial to small companies if the JobsPlus Youth scheme was available to them, specifically to hire apprentices.

“I met with the Construction Industry Federation yesterday (Tuesday), who are supportive of this idea. There is currently a shortage of block layers for example, and that is something we need to address given that development is taking off again, not to mention the Government’s plans to supply 35,000 additional social housing units over the next 6 years, which should create almost 30,000 new jobs.

“Another idea that could help in this area is to amend the training period for apprentices. Currently, with the exception of printing, all apprenticeships are four years long leading to a Fetac Level 6 qualification. Where appropriate, some apprenticeships could consist of tiered training, whereby you could get a Fetac Level 5 qualification after 3 years for example. This would do a lot to speed up the process of getting young people fit for the workplace.

“The economy is going in the right direction again with today’s CSO figures showing that 90,000 new jobs have been created since the launch of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs in 2012. The Government has a plan to continue the recovery and achieve full employment by 2018. Small but significant changes to the apprenticeship system could play a big role in achieving this target. I have written to both Damien English, the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and Kevin Humphreys, Minister of State at Department of Social Protection with responsibility for labour activation, to outline my two suggestions as to how to achieve this.”