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Address by the Minister for Defence, Mr Willie O’Dea, TD,
at the Institutes of Technology Apprenticeship Committee Conference

Limerick Institute of Technology, Moylish Park - May 5th 2006

Chairperson, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to be with you here this morning to address the 5th annual Institutes of Technology Apprenticeship Committee Conference. I know, from talking with your Chairperson Terry Twomey, that your conferences have been going from strength to strength, reflecting the growing importance of the construction and trades based industries.

At the outset I want to welcome you all to our great city and hope that you get some opportunity to enjoy the delights of Limerick.

Turning to subject of your discussions today: Challenge and Change in Apprenticeship 2006 – 2010, the importance of apprenticeship for the modern Irish economy cannot be overstated. Apprenticeship education in Ireland has grown rapidly over the past decade, from 8000 registered apprentices in 1996 to over 28,000 apprentices in 2006.

One of the biggest single growth sectors has been construction. Not only is the construction industry booming at home here in Ireland, internationally, very many Irish companies are now participating in major construction contracts. Their ability to compete and win these contracts is due, in no small part, to the recognised quality of workmanship produced by our trades men and women.

At home, our economy has benefited enormously from the growing housing and civil construction sectors, both in terms of revenue received and employment given. Today one out of every eight workers in Ireland is employed in the construction industry. Here in Limerick, the results of this growth are manifest. We are witnessing a major change in the built environment of our city, with a number of major civil construction projects still in the pipeline.

Your conference today is most important, dealing as it is with the need for apprenticeship education to keep pace with changes in industry and stay relevant to industry’s changing needs.

In this regard you will shortly hear a paper from Professor Howard Gospel of Imperial College, London about research recently completed for the British government on industry’s future requirements from apprenticeship training.

Here at home, apprenticeship education has reached a turning point where the existing range of traditional trades is expanding to address the wider knowledge, skill and competence requirements of a modernizing economy. The highest standards of apprentice education are required to support this and ensure development of this first world infrastructure.

This ITAC conference is being held at a time of major change in apprentice education in Ireland. A new curriculum is being introduced for all trades. New trades are starting up to meet emerging needed. New systems of assessment and quality insurance for apprenticeship will be launched soon. And the progression of apprentice education through continuing professional development is also under review.

It is important that you meet together in conference, such as this to discuss and consider how you contribute positively to these developments.

I wish you all well in your discussions today and applaud the great ongoing work you and your colleagues are doing.

Thank you.

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