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Creating the social foundations for apprenticeship in Ireland

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to discuss Ireland's national apprenticeship programme, introduced in 1993, in the context of the country's evolving economic and social policies. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A critical analysis is undertaken of the industrial climate in Ireland, which prevented the introduction of a national apprenticeship programme, until 1993. Findings ‐ The paper argues that the main factor for the successful implementation of this programme in 1993 was the emergence of a new climate of cooperation among the social partners providing the institutional foundations for the programme. This cooperation was a result of the 1991 ground-breaking "social partnership" agreement between employers, trade unions and government, in signing up to a joint national framework programme. Research limitations/implications ‐ The paper only briefly looks at earlier efforts ‐ from the 1960s onwards ‐ to introduce a well-functioning programme, which are seen as a learning period, underpinning the breakthrough of the 1990s. Practical implications ‐ In acknowledging the success of the programme, the paper asks whether this success can be built on further. This could be achieved through increasing the number of apprenticeships, through enlarging the apprenticeship regulatory framework. This could then have a knock-on effect on employment generation and skill development as, for example, has happened in Australia. Originality/value ‐ The paper shows that, despite comments about Ireland being institutionally unsuited for apprenticeship ‐ owing to the lack of an industrial cultural tradition of cooperation, it did, in fact, create an industrial cultural climate to provide the social foundations for a well-functioning programme.
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Keywords: Apprenticeships; Ireland; Labour market; Learning; Partnership

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 5, 2009

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