APPRENTICES IN THE SOLAS/FÁS programme will now have to pay additional fees to attend institutes of technology as part of budget savings that kicked in this week.
The costs are associated with registration fees paid to the IOTs apprentices attend as part of their training and range from €540 depending on the course being taken.
The charge is on a pro-rata basis with the registration fees paid by full-time students at the colleges.
Apprentices attend IOTs for two ten-week periods during their four year apprenticeships. The registration fee was previously paid by the exchequer but from this year it will be paid by the apprentices themselves.
The cut is expected to yield an annual exchequer saving of €1.6 million but has been criticised by Fianna Fáil as being “short-sighted”.
“This is another anti-jobs measure that slipped under the radar when Budget 2014 was announced in October,” said Charlie McConalogue TD.
“These fees are on top of the other costs associated with attending college and committing to a multi-annual apprenticeship programme. There is no doubt that the additional cost will prevent many job seekers from entering these highly valuable apprenticeship programmes, ” he added.
The change in apprenticeship fees was raised in the Dáil by deputies Róisín Shortall and Clare Daly who asked Minister of State for Skills Ciarán Cannon about the number of trainees affected and about what they saw as inequality in the fee structures.
Cannon said that the changes were part of “a review of the Irish apprenticeship training model” and denied the fee structure was unfair, saying it was based on the time spent in the IOTs:
“This is typically one-third of the annual student contribution paid by students attending for the full academic year but it can be greater for certain trades where longer periods are spent in Institutes of Technology,” he said.
Since 2004, FÁS/SOLAS has paid a part of the annual student contribution due in respect of apprentices, with apprentices themselves paying the part of the contribution relating to examination fees. As part of Budget 2014, SOLAS will cease making payments to Institutes of Technology and apprentices will pay the full pro-rata annual student contribution.
Cannon said that 2,704 places have been made available in IOTs for apprentices in 2014.