The managing director of a leading forklift manufacturer has said he believes there is a need to review the perception of apprenticeships in Ireland.

Combilift’s Martin McVicar was speaking at the launch of a new apprenticeship programme aimed at filling the skills gap faced by Irish equipment manufacturing firms.

Mr McVicar said with many firms reporting shortages of qualified skilled employees, this new apprenticeship will become a key contributor to the recruitment for many indigenous and international companies based in Ireland.

Among those in attendance at launch were Minister for Education Joe McHugh and Minister for Business, Innovation and Enterprise Heather Humphreys.

Mr McVicar also said young people completing their second level education are often encouraged to prioritise third level college degrees, to the detriment of other options.

He said that despite an increase in the number of applicants for apprenticeships there is a perception among parents and careers advisers across Ireland that it is a "fall-back option".

"The idea that apprenticeships are only for those students that do not achieve high grades has to change," he said.

He added that career advice and decisions that are driven by school league tables "are not serving our children or our country".

"The pressure to get a third level degree with the hope of a good job at the end is not always beneficial to students or our economy," he said.

He said this apprenticeship offers a rewarding and challenging career path from the day the apprentice starts.

This apprenticeship is aimed at school leavers who have completed their Leaving Certificate, or mature applicants who wish to pursue a career in this area.

The Advanced Certificate in Original Equipment Manufacturing is a three-year Level 6 apprenticeship was developed by the engineering companies in conjunction with education and training boards in Cavan and Monaghan, Limerick and Clare.