New apprenticeship launched in bid to recruit more commercial drivers

Two government ministers today launched a new apprenticeship aimed at attracting the next generation of commercial drivers.

The two-year apprenticeship programme in Transport Operations and Commercial Driving will see apprentices being employed by a business for the duration while also participating in Lectures at Atlantic Technological University in Sligo.

Those taking part will have the opportunity to obtain a Higher Education qualification as well as their professional driving qualification.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, and Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, formally launched the programme this afternoon (Thursday).

The apprenticeship is backed by its lead proposer Freight Transport Association Ireland, coordinating provider Atlantic Technological University, the Health and Safety Authority, Insurance Ireland and the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport in Ireland (CILT).

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: "Twelve months ago, Aidan Flynn at FTA Ireland came to meet Minister Naughton and me 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 Atlantic Technological University Sligo. This is good news for our economy, good news for businesses and good news for education."

Minister of State Naughton described the apprenticeship as an example of collaboration between industry, the education sector and Government "to address the challenges currently facing the road freight sector."

She said the crisis in Ukraine, Brexit and the pandemic had reminded everyone of the importance of "a fully functioning supply chain, and of the critical role that those working in logistics and transport, including drivers, play every day in bringing essential supplies into and around the country."

She also said she was hopeful that the new apprenticeship would "serve as a springboard for the diversification of the workforce in the freight sector" by attracting more women into the industry.

Currently the average age of commercial vehicle drivers is over 50 with only 2% of those holding a commercial vehicle license being women.