The Institute of Technology Sligo in partnership with the Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTA Ireland), has today (26TH April 2021) announced the nation’s first academic qualification for commercial driving, supported by SOLAS and the Higher Education Authority (HEA), in a bid to attract new entrants into the profession.

IT Sligo, acting as the co-ordinating provider, along with a consortium of key industry stakeholders and employers, will be working alongside FTAI to develop a programme in readiness for the first group of apprentices, who will be undertaking a two year, level six course, starting in January 2022.

With 30,000 new logistics workers needed over the next few years to keep supply chain operations afloat in the Republic of Ireland, FTA Ireland (FTAI), the business group representing the haulage sector, welcomed the funding needed to launch the apprenticeship programme.

Aidan Flynn, General Manager of FTAI comments: “The haulage industry plays a vital role in supporting the nation’s economy and society, but it is suffering from a severe shortage of commercial drivers. Attracting new talent into the sector – particularly younger recruits as the average age of an HGV driver is over 45 – and raising the profile of the job opportunities available is key. We are so pleased the HEA has provided the funding we need to launch this apprenticeship programme, which will become the  first academic qualification in the profession of commercial driving to be on the national framework.

“To recruit new entrants, we need to overcome the poor image many young people have of careers within the freight distribution and logistics profession. Training and education, upskilling and continuous professional development must become the norm not the exception if this sector is to succeed into the future; our new commercial driving apprenticeship goes some way in tackling the driver shortage issue.”

The programme coincides with the launch of the government’s five-year Action Plan for Apprenticeships. Head of Faculty of Business and Social Studies at IT Sligo, Dr Michael Barrett said the further recognition of apprenticeships as a route to a career is very welcome:

“Apprenticeships are viable alternatives to the traditional route to a third-level education qualification and are necessary to attract the scale and diversity of candidates needed into industries such as haulage. We are thrilled the government recognises the value of these schemes and its support will help employers and job entrants alike.  We have many years experience in traditional apprenticeship programmes and are the leading institute in online learning and training in Ireland which makes us an ideal partner for industries.  This partnership will build on the successful collaboration with the Insurance Institute of Ireland and the Life Insurance Association on the insurance apprenticeship programme which takes in its sixth cohort of students in September.”

FTA Ireland is a not-for-profit membership trade association for the Irish freight, passenger and logistics industries. We are wholly owned and governed by our members, and act solely in advancing their best interests. FTA Ireland covers all aspects of private and public freight transport, passenger transport and logistics supply chain, including road, rail, sea and air. FTAI represents some of the largest freight and passenger operators in Ireland, with more than 25,000 employees and 10,000 vehicles operating between them.