In September the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment announced the employer-based redundant apprentice rotation scheme, but it only covers a proportion of apprentices. Deputy Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael enterprise, trade and employment spokesman, suggested the scheme seven months before the Tánaiste when he realised the number of apprentices on the live register between January and July 2007 had trebled. What will happen to the plan when it runs out at the end of 2009? With the number of apprentices being made redundant in the past 12 months, is the plan sufficient to cater for the majority of them? The Government often speaks of upskilling the workforce and developing a knowledge-based economy. What plans are in place for apprentices?
I welcome the ESB’s announcement today that it will take on 400 redundant apprentices, a great move by it in a week when it was lambasted for allowing a pay rise. The company’s chief executive, Pádraig McManus, was correct when he stated that without full qualifications, apprentices would not be able to work as electricians. If we are serious about upskilling and educational qualifications, we need to allow young people who have signed up for a trade to finish their training. In Cork city, up to 6,000 people have lost their jobs in the past year, a 75% increase in a year, and many of them were apprentices. Up to 3,600 apprentices across the country are unable to complete their training and earn their qualifications. In December, a scheme was announced to allow 500 of them to conclude their training. Having these apprentices out of work does not assist their practical training. What other initiatives will be introduced to allow FÁS apprentices to finish their training and to be employable when the economic upturn occurs?