SOLAS Helps to Launch Ireland’s First Traveller-Specific Pre-Apprenticeship Programme


SOLAS CEO, Andrew Brownlee was delighted to be part of the launch of Ireland’s First Traveller-Specific Pre-Apprenticeship Programme by the Offaly Traveller Movement (OTM), in partnership with Laois & Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB). This groundbreaking initiative is designed to equip members of the Traveller community with the necessary education and skills to advance into further education or craft apprenticeships.

Speaking at the launch Sandra McDonagh, Managing Director of OTM said: “The significance of this programme cannot be overstated. Over half of Irish Travellers leave school by age 15, and less than 1% advance to higher education. This stark educational inequality has far-reaching consequences, contributing to an unemployment rate of 80.2% within the Traveller community.

The launch of this first of its kind programme marks a significant step towards addressing educational inequality and promoting social inclusion for the Traveller community. There are a range of stakeholders involved in supporting this initiative which means we can create meaningful opportunities for Travellers, fostering a more inclusive and prosperous society for all.”

Ms McDonagh continued: “This programme provides a foundation of education and practical skills tailored for Travellers, preparing participants for further education and craft apprenticeships. The programme also promotes inclusion and diversity within the apprenticeship sector, encouraging employers to support and engage with Traveller apprentices. In the long term, the initiative seeks to increase the number of Travellers progressing to higher education and skilled employment and improving the socio-economic status of the Traveller community.”

Speaking at the launch of the initiative Andrew Brownlee, CEO of SOLAS said: “We congratulate OTM and LOETB on the launch of this fantastic initiative which will support members of the Traveller community to access Further Education and Training (FET), and apprenticeships. A key part of our current FET strategy is focussed on fostering inclusion, this means as a sector we must provide tailored pathways to encourage the participation of learner cohorts who are less likely to take part in education, providing them with opportunities to achieve their goals, whether that’s to access quality employment or to improve their self-confidence and mental well-being.”

“We have experienced huge growth in FET and apprenticeships with one in ten adults in Ireland engaged in FET activity last year. However, it is important that we continue to work with Education and Training Boards (ETBs), and other partners across the sector to widen participation in FET, ensuring that we create a more equal society where no one is left behind.”

Key features of the programme include the development of a bespoke curriculum that addresses both academic and practical skills, incorporating cultural awareness and specific supports for Traveller. This curriculum will be complemented by active partnerships with local businesses and industries to provide apprenticeship opportunities. The LOETB will play a crucial role in delivering high-quality training and mentorship, ensuring that participants receive the support they need to succeed.

Also speaking at the launch event Emma Gilchreest, FET Strategic Lead; Tertiary and Apprenticeships with LOETB said: “Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board (LOETB) is delighted to support the launch of the Traveller Specific Pre-Apprenticeship Local Training Initiative. We recognise the strong interest and suitability of the Traveller community for the apprenticeship model. However, we also acknowledge the significant barriers travellers face in accessing apprenticeships due to racism and discrimination. There is a need for government bodies and employers to collaborate to ensure Travellers can access apprenticeships and benefit from tailored initiatives and support. LOETB is proud to contribute to inclusive education and training through this initiative.”

This programme is envisioned as a pilot model with the potential for nationwide rollout through other Traveller organisations and local Education and Training Boards (ETBs). The framework developed in this pilot can be adapted and implemented across Ireland to ensure widespread access to education and apprenticeship opportunities for Travellers, thereby addressing systemic barriers and promoting social mobility.

For more information on the programme visit