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Apprentices being ‘exploited as cheap labour’

Craft apprentices are being exploited as cheap labour by some employers, according to the Connect trade union.

It will launch a campaign today, highlighting the pressures which it says are undermining the apprenticeship system.

According to Connect, apprentices are being forced to work for below the minimum wage and face long delays in their courses which is forcing many to leave their chosen trade or emigrate.

“Apprentices are the future of our trades, and their work is vital to the economic and social wellbeing of our country,” said Connect Assistant General Secretary, Brian Nolan.

Connect has accused Taoiseach Simon Harris of failing to fix the problems before he left the role of Minister for Further and Higher Education

“However, increasing numbers are being forced out of their chosen career due to an inability to live on what is often below minimum wage pay, long delays in accessing college-based training and their exploitation as cheap labour by some employers,” Mr Nolan said.

Connect has accused Taoiseach Simon Harris of failing to fix the problems before he left the role of Minister for Further and Higher Education.

The Department of Further and Higher Education said it recognises that there is increasing pressure on workers as a result of inflation and other cost of living factors and that it has commissioned independent research to review the landscape of apprentice pay.

“This Government has prioritised investment into apprenticeship, including allocating €67 million for apprenticeships through Budget 2024 bringing total funding to €300 million,” a spokesperson said.

“This is a vital step in building the capacity required to both reduce delays in apprenticeship training and meet future training requirements,” they added.

The Department said it is overseeing the implementation of a plan put in place by the National Apprenticeship Office (NAO) to grow capacity and reduce waiting times for apprentices.


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