Niall Collins on Apprenticeships: the Action Plan, the Benefits and the Value to our Economy

26/07/21 11:43 / by The Insurance Institute

The Insurance Institute


Our CEO Dermot Murray was delighted to have the opportunity recently to chat with Minister Niall Collins about the great work he and his department are doing in the area of apprenticeships. Minister Collins provided an update on The Action Plan for Apprenticeship and outlined his ambitious and exciting vision for the apprenticeship landscape.




Minister, congratulations to you and your team on the recent launch of The Action Plan for Apprenticeship – can you tell us a little about the main objectives of the initiative?

I’m delighted that the Action Plan has been published and sets a clear vision for the future of apprenticeships.

The simple fact is that apprenticeships only exist in areas where there is a demand for skills. They are not approved otherwise – this you will know too well from your development of The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship and apprentice jobs can only exist where employers provide those jobs – therefore the Action Plan for Apprenticeship sets out to support employers to engage with apprenticeships as a key mechanism for building a highly skilled workforce.

Quite simply the plan sets out to place apprenticeships at the heart of the conversation when employers are looking at ways to recruit staff and when learners of all ages are looking at a route to a career. By 2025, regardless of the sector that you are working in or looking to get in to, an apprenticeship will be an option for you.

The actions set out in the plan will deliver clarity for school-leavers, jobseekers and career changers on the wide range of available apprenticeships and will put a structure in place to ensure that the apprentice population will more closely reflect the general population.


Do you think there has been a change in how apprenticeships in Ireland are viewed?

People are only starting to realise that apprenticeships have changed over the past 6 years. It’s a message that you and the Irish insurance sector will be familiar with, given the significant engagement with The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship to date.

The current apprenticeship system has its roots in the 2013 Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland which reinforced the benefits of workplace learning that is supported through classroom based learning in an education or training setting. And it was that review which set out the need to expand apprenticeships beyond the twenty-seven craft apprenticeship programmes in place at the time.

The response from industry has been significant and today’s apprenticeship offering is vastly expanded. Thirty-five new apprenticeships have been launched across multiple sectors offering different qualification levels, programme duration and delivery models. The expansion is continuing with eighteen more apprenticeships in development and a number of sectors engaged in early development.

Employers in every sector are becoming aware of the depth of talent potentially available to them, the benefits of direct engagement with education and training providers and the ability to leverage that opportunity to create engaged employees and to support innovation within their organisation. Again, these benefits will be only too familiar to you as I know your apprenticeship ticks all these boxes also.




The Government is obviously acutely aware of the benefits of apprenticeships, what value do you think they bring to a society and an economy?

Apprenticeships provide a route to rapid re-employment for those impacted by scarring effects and structural changes to the economy and labour market, particularly among our youth. It can provide them with a clear route to not only a job, but to a valued qualification and a clear career path in front of them, and provide a level of hope and direction that may not have been readily apparent.

As well as boosting productivity, apprenticeships can help companies to compete in the modern marketplace and make their organisations more competitive. In addition to building a company's skills base, providing quality training to apprentices is also likely to bring benefits in terms of staff retention. A major reason for this is that staff typically feel loyal to employers who have invested in their training, and are therefore more engaged and motivated to stay. They have ‘grown up’ in the ethos of the company and feel invested in its continued success. Something that you have seen no doubt in your apprentice graduates in recent years.

The workplace is changing and the response to COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation, changing the nature and capabilities required for occupations. Certain sectors have been greatly affected and a significant number of people will need to reskill to find alternative employment and to prepare for the new employment opportunities that will emerge – apprenticeships provide a rapid route to gaining those skills.

People learn in different ways and I want to make sure that everyone is aware apprenticeships can be a route to a qualification into the future.

Find out more about The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship today.

This is part 1 of a 2 part blog series. Read part 2 here.