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“My message to any student thinking about their career is simple – employers need apprentices.

And the business leaders of today value young people who choose this career path as highly as someone who chooses a course of study at college or university.

Apprenticeships are fast becoming the top-rated way of getting a qualification – often at degree level, enviable skills, experience of work and life, and all of this while being able to earn.

More opportunities than ever before are being created in this area. There are the traditional sectors like the crafts and hospitality and there are the new career paths into sectors like insurance, finance and accounting, fin-tech and ICT.

Go to apprenticeship.ie to check out what is on offer.

In January I was fortunate enough to see apprenticeships in action at Combilift in Monaghan. It is opening its doors to young people and giving them an insight into a multi-million euro manufacturing industry, supplying state-of-the-art machinery to companies around the world.

It is just one of the companies on board with the Government’s ambition to see a total of 50,000 people enrolled on apprenticeship and traineeship programmes by 2020 – that is 14,000 enrolments every year. Expanding the opportunities for school

leavers and young people is a key priority for this Government.

Schools, teachers and guidance counsellors play a hugely important role in supporting our young people and helping them to make independent choices on their journey into a career. So too do the parents, families, friends and role models in the community and local clubs.

All of us need to see the huge transformation that is taking place in the further education and apprentices sector.

The employers are leading the way. Their attitudes towards graduates from apprenticeships and Post-Leaving Cert courses tell their own story – they are rated as highly as graduates from universities and third-level colleges.

Not only that but employers will tell you that graduates of further education have better skills when it comes to teamworking, they have more commercial awareness and they are more likely to think like an entrepreneur.

It is a massive vote of confidence in the sector.

I look forward to the School Summit 2019 sponsored by ABP, taking place on 16th & 17th September in The National Show Centre, Swords, Co Dublin, and I know that the Ireland Skills Live event and its three day expo from 21st to 23rd March in RDS Simmonscourt, Dublin will be a major boost to bring apprenticeships and traineeships into the 21st century.

At these events you will get the best advice, the right guidance and the chance to hear first-hand from those who know what is best.

I want to see more initiatives to bring vocational education and private industry together. We are responding to the new demands of the workplace. We are investing to open doors for young people who are moving from school to careers. We are ensuring lifelong learning. Our education system is on course to be the best in Europe and apprenticeships are key to our ambitions.

I urge students to think with every single avenue open to them leaving school. You are facing into a rapidly changing world of work. We are expanding the opportunities to set you on the right path and to give you the best preparations for a career and for life. Use these events to test the possibilities and seize the initiative to learn and earn.

I am delighted to provide the foreword for this special Summit edition of BellTime Magazine which is sponsored by ABP.

For students attending this year’s Summit, it is a very exciting time to be considering your future after school. There are more opportunities now than ever before, to help you achieve your ambitions in life.

There are a number of pathways to further your education, whether you choose third level, a post leaving certificate course, or the apprenticeship and traineeship routes. This School Summit is a great opportunity for you to explore the different options available to you.

We aim to make Ireland’s education system the best in Europe by 2026. This means many things – being the best at supporting those who come to education at a disadvantage, ensuring our education system keeps pace with technological changes, the changing world and ensuring we are equipping our students to manage their own wellbeing. It also means strengthening the pathways to education and ensuring that we are providing a range of alternative routes for those wishing to continue or start their education.

Apprenticeships are a great pathway for students to gain valuable experience in working world. We have set the target to double the number of annual apprenticeship and traineeship enrolments to 14,000 by 2020. To meet this target, we are developing in some really exciting new areas. Already 11 new apprenticeships have been created and over 40 more in the pipeline, some in traditional sectors like horticulture and hospitality, other in new sectors like ICT, biopharma and logistics. You can find out more information on www.apprenticeship.ie

The expectations from our education and training service are changing rapidly. The challenge in the years ahead will be to invest and transform our education system so that it broadens career paths, opens its doors to lifelong learning, builds momentum around key curricular reforms which respond to changing needs of students and continues to break down cycles of disadvantage.

The School Summit provides valuable career guidance and advice to students and I would encourage all those attending to take in as many of the numerous demonstrations, workshops and speeches as possible. Events such as this one give students an excellent opportunity to explore all aspects of our wide ranging, limitless and thriving education system.

This is the second year as Minister for Education and Skills that I’ve had the chance to introduce the 2019 School Summit sponsored by ABP – two days for senior cycle students to look at what paths they can take in further education.

The exhibition is a valuable experience for all students. You will get a unique chance to explore the wide range of opportunities that are available, with a particular focus on apprenticeships and traineeships.

There will be essential educational and vocational material to pick up as well as insights and valuable knowledge from guidance counsellors who are on hand at the summit to answer queries.

Once again the spotlight is shining on apprenticeships and traineeships that the School Summit provides as it is often a path that students do not delve into before making their decision for after the Leaving Certificate.

The Government is placing a great emphasis on apprenticeships and is committed to more than doubling the number of new apprentices registered and the number of apprenticeships on offer over the lifetime from 2016-2020.

In 2018, 5,648 new apprentices were registered and we have seen an 80% increase in apprenticeship registrations over the last four years.

In recent years we have also seen the emergence of new apprenticeships in computing & ICT, MedTech, logistics and engineering.

There really has never been a better time to be involved in an apprenticeship with the fantastic opportunities that they offer. I would encourage any student attending the 2019 School Summit to strongly consider the benefits of an
apprenticeship.

I have no doubt that this year’s School Summit will be another successful one and implore all those attending to check out as many of the
demonstrations, workshops and speeches to collect more helpful advice before you embark on the next step on your journey.

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