Apprenticeships – What are they?

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You may have heard about Apprenticeships but not understood what they are or what they involve.

Apprenticeships offer a fantastic opportunity for individuals to receive training in a specific skilled area, get paid, and earn a qualification. In Ireland, there is a lack of skilled workers in certain industries. This is especially true with some losing their jobs during the pandemic. An apprenticeship is a great way to change careers and immediately start earning again.

But what exactly is an apprenticeship, and how does it work? In this blog, we’ll answer these questions and more.


What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a training and education programme that combines learning in a college/university or training centre with work-based learning in a company.

Apprentices complete at least 50% of their learning in the workplace, also referred to as ‘on-the-job learning’.

When you think of an apprenticeship, you probably think of trades like carpentry, plumbing, mechanics, and electrics. These ‘traditional’ apprenticeships are called craft apprenticeships.

A craft apprenticeship generally lasts for 4 years, during that time, you will spend 3 different periods in off-the-job training. Craft apprenticeships include carpentry, plumbing, motor mechanics and electrical trades. Craft apprentices are awarded a QQI Level 6 certificate.

Since 2016, new apprenticeships introduced can be for between 2 and 4 years and lead to an award between Levels 5 and 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

There are several models of on-the-job and off-the-job training, as well as different models of delivery and different target groups. Industry-led groups, which work with education and training providers and other partners, oversee the development and roll-out of new apprenticeships. New apprenticeships are available in Information Communications Technology (ICT), finance, insurance and hospitality, including software development, accounting technician, insurance practitioner and commis chef.

All successful apprentices earn a QQI qualification that international entities recognise.


What types of apprenticeships are available?

Currently, 69 different types of apprenticeships are on offer, and many employers have approval to train apprentices. Check out the Apprenticeship website to see exactly what’s available.

Currently, there are several apprenticeships under development in the areas of Motor Mechanics, Horticulture, Electrical, Civil Engineer and many more.


Will I earn money?

Yes, you will! Apprentices ‘earn while they learn’. They hold a formal employment contract and receive a salary throughout their apprenticeship training.

If you are doing a craft apprenticeship, you will be paid the recommended apprenticeship wage by your employer while you are on the job. When you are in college, the Education and Training Board will pay you a weekly allowance that is the same as your on-the-job wage.

If you are doing a new apprenticeship (those developed since 2016), your employer will pay you for the duration of the apprenticeship. You and your employer agree on the rate of pay. How much you will earn will depend on the apprenticeship programme you do.

Important to note: Your annual leave entitlements continue to add up when you are off the job. But you must take them when you are on the job and with your employer’s agreement.

If you are an apprentice with children, you should investigate whether you qualify for the Working Family Payment (WFP). It is a weekly tax-free payment for employees who have children. Apprentices qualify for the payment once they meet the other criteria.


How do I qualify for an apprenticeship?

Generally speaking, you need to be at least 16 years old and have a minimum Grade D in 5 subjects in the Junior Cert or equivalent. However, some apprenticeships and employers might require higher qualifications and other requirements. It all depends on the apprenticeship.

But don’t worry if you don’t meet the criteria – there are alternative routes to accessing an apprenticeship!  If you don’t have the required qualifications, you can complete an approved preparatory training course followed by an interview, or if you are over 18 and have a minimum of 3 years of relevant work experience, you can do an assessment interview.

Some apprenticeships will require you to pass a colour vision test.


What does it cost?

Apprentices do not pay tuition fees. However, they have to pay the Student Contribution Charge (also known as the registration fee). They do not pay the full amount but pay a part of the fee based on how long they will be in college.

For example, full-time students have their contribution charge capped at €3,000 per academic year. For an apprentice who might spend a 10/11 week semester at college, they would only pay €1,000. In Budget 2024, it was announced that there will be a reduction of 33% in the Student Contribution Charge for apprentices in the 2023/2024 academic year.

Apprenticeships do not qualify for the SUSI grant.


Who can be an apprentice?

Anyone can be an apprentice as long as they meet the criteria!  Apprentices are learners of all ages who come from all types of educational and employment backgrounds. –  there are currently over 24,000 apprentices completing training in Ireland and they include school leavers, older learners, people who want a career change, women, people with disabilities and people from diverse backgrounds.


How do I apply for an apprenticeship?

You can find and apply for apprenticeship jobs for craft and new apprenticeships just like you would for a job. Make sure you note and apply before the closing date!

Where do I find out more?

For more information on apprenticeships, visit

The website contains information about becoming an apprentice. You will find a full list of all available apprenticeships as well as the contact details for your local ETB. The website also lists employers that are currently looking to take on apprenticeships. You can also call the dedicated helpline for free on 1800 794 487. Open 12pm-6pm Monday-Friday.

We hope you’ve learned something more about apprenticeships and the great opportunities they can offer to all kinds of people, whether they’re just finishing school or are looking for a change of pace.


Contact Us

If you have a query for one of our advisers or are struggling with your debts, you can call the MABS National Helpline on 0818 07 2000 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm, or find the contact details for your local office. More information is available on our website.


Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure this information is current and correct. The details of each case can be unique. As a result, the outcome can be different to what has been described in this blog.

Note: We welcome references to and use of the content in this blog. However, please reference MABS and link said content if you choose to do so.