Ireland’s road freight and distribution sector has reinforced its commitment to the next generation of employees with the launch in Sligo of a new Transport Operations and Commercial Driving apprenticeship, the first on the national framework of qualifications linked with the profession of Heavy Goods Vehicle Driving.
Launched by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, and Minister of State at the Department of Transport with special responsibility for International and Road Transport and Logistics, Hildegarde Naughton TD, the new two-year programme will provide the opportunity for employees to “earn as they learn” to gain a Higher Education qualification as well as their professional driving qualification. The apprenticeship is backed by a range of key stakeholders, including lead proposer Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI), Co-ordinating provider Atlantic Technological University, the Health and Safety Authority, Insurance Ireland and CILT Ireland.
Commenting at the event, Minister Harris said; “Twelve months ago, Aidan Flynn (FTAI) and colleagues came to meet Minister Naughton and I to discuss this new Transport Operations and Commercial Driver Apprenticeship. And a year later, we are here announcing it has finally commenced. That is what we need- industry and education working together to address the skills shortages we have. Under this programme, apprentices are employed by a Business for the duration of the two –year Programme and will earn as they learn. But in addition to this, apprentices will participate in Lectures in ATU Sligo. This is good news for our economy, good news for businesses and good news for education.”
Aidan Flynn, Chief Executive at FTA Ireland, added; “Road transport is critical to the continued success of Ireland’s supply chain, since it accounts for almost 99% of inland freight movements across the country. Yet the pressures on talent to join other careers is placing increasing pressure on recruitment for the sector, which is now struggling to recruit a diverse workforce and has suffered long standing skills shortages as a result.
“Apprenticeships are a proven means for new recruits to join a sector while still learning during their workplace training, and we are confident that this new apprenticeship – the 65th launched nationwide – will attract new employees to our vibrant industry and ensure that they can take up one of the many jobs currently on offer once qualified.”
Speaking at the launch in ATU Sligo of the new apprenticeship, President of Atlantic Technological University, Dr Orla Flynn said: “Atlantic TU is committed to providing accessible Higher Education opportunities across all levels of the NFQ. This new apprenticeship is an example of a strong partnership with industry, that builds on our experience of programme design that incorporates work based learning and online teaching. We are confident that this unique programme will address a national skills shortage, by ensuring that our graduates will be equipped with the technical and business skills that are needed to excel in a dynamic and progressive industry sector.”
Over the past few decades, the industry has become one of the most regulated, leading to better working conditions for employees. Currently the average age of commercial vehicle drivers is over 50 with only 2% of those holding a commercial vehicle license being women. The launch of this new apprenticeship hopes to attract a new generation to the industry with more women HGV drivers.