Irish government penalises apprentices – Lynn Boylan MEP
Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin, has welcomed the confirmation by the European Commission that the Irish government is free to use the Youth Employment Initiative funds available to cover the cost of fees currently being paid by young people in apprenticeships. The Commission further stated that the Irish situation of forcing apprentices to pay their own education fees was unusual.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Ms Boylan said:
“The introduction by the Irish Government in the 2014 Budget of fees for apprentices has exacerbated youth unemployment in this state. It discourages young people from taking up apprenticeships in a state with 21% youth unemployment. No other Member State in the European Union imposes a tax on training.
“This fee annually brings in a mere €1.6 million to government coffers, but to individual apprentices it is crippling and is pushing many out of their apprenticeships and is deterring others from taking one up.
“The Youth Employment Initiative has reserved €68 million for Ireland. I wrote to the European Commission to ask if it would recommend that the Irish Government to use the Youth Employment Initiative funds to fill the €1.6 million gap to ensure that apprentices are not charged exorbitant fees to complete their training
“In its response to my question, the Commission has confirmed that the Irish Government’s system is unusual, saying off-the-job education in vocational schools across the EU is ‘most often’ free.
“The Commission also confirmed that the Irish Government is free to include the apprenticeship fees in its use of the Youth Employment Initiative.
“This fee should never have been introduced in the first place and I am calling on the government to axe it in this year’s budget.
“The Commission’s response demonstrates that the onus is firmly on the Irish Government to decide how to use these funds.
“It is now clear beyond doubt that funding the apprenticeship fees from the Youth Employment Initiative funds is a viable option that could make a real difference to youth unemployment in this state by removing a barrier to young people taking up apprenticeships.
“The practical impact of the government’s stance on this issue is evidenced by its approach to the housing crisis. The government appears to be unwilling to begin a programme of much needed social housing, when it does choose to react who will build these houses? Discouraging young people from taking up apprenticeships with these fees indicates the government’s lack of a joined up approach to the housing crisis.”