The Government has made rebuilding and expanding the apprenticeship programme a key priority, a Department of Education spokesperson has said.

It comes as Sinn Féin wants to deliver 60,000 apprenticeships within five years.

The party wants to encourage people who may feel that third level education is not for them that doing an apprenticeship is a "good life choice."

The party launched a new five-year apprenticeship strategy this morning, which includes proposals to develop over 60 new apprenticeship programmes in areas such as financial services and green energy.

Sinn Féin's spokesperson for Business, Innovation and Enterprise Maurice Quinlivan said: "We want to get the message out that apprenticeships are a decent way for people to go forward. Third level does not suit everyone.

"The Leaving Certificate results were out yesterday and they are an option that we believe people should look at."

He stressed that politicians should emphasise how good apprenticeships can be for young people in finding work.

He claimed that his plan is "more ambitious than what the Government is doing" and the Government is not reaching its own targets.

The Limerick TD said: "Figures released this year show that only 18% of the people they are targetting in their own policy will have taken up  apprenticeships this year so it is not good enough.

"The perception is that apprenticeships are not the best way forward. They are a decent way of work for people and it is important to get that message out there."

He highlighted the need to fund new apprenticehips and added: "In Ireland we have 37 apprenticeships. In Germany they have over 300 and in Austria they have over 350. We are looking at increasing the number of types of apprenticeships from 37 to 100 as well.

"We would be looking at ways of doing that through financial services, green energy and lots of different other apprenticeships."

He said his party has been engaging with the training agency Solas to work out the finer details of widening the number of apprenticeships that are currently available.

Stakeholders in sectors such as the construction and retail sectors are struggling to employ people.

The Construction Industry Federation estimates they will need 112,000 people to be employed to build the houses that are intended to be built in the next few years.

"The skilled workers are simply not there. We have lost a huge skill set due to the economic collapse and people emigrating".

He also pointed out that "the Hotel Federation also says that it is struggling and retail companies are trying to set up apprenticeships themselves and they do not seem to be getting traction. The red tape groups need to go through to set up new apprenticeships needs to be tackled as well."

"The Government needs to be serious about what they are trying to do. If they are talking about delivering extra apprenticeships they need to cut the red tape and make sure it is done easier", he added.

A Department of Education spokesperson said: "This government has made rebuilding and expanding apprenticeships a key priority.

He outlined that Ministers Richard Bruton and John Halligan launched a plan last year, committing the Government to more than doubling the number of new apprentices registered to 9,000 by 2020 and expanding further into new areas.

"The Ministers are committed to moving towards 20% of students pursuing an apprenticeship or traineeship route after school," the spokesperson said.

Budget 2018 allocated €122m for apprenticeship training, an increase of almost 24% on the previous year to help realise this ambition, they added.

This increased investment will allow the Government to deliver ten more apprenticeship programmes and over 6,000 apprenticeship registrations in 2018. These programmes will build on the seven new programmes launched in 2017 and two in 2016.

The spokesperson added: "Not only is this government succeeding in rebuilding the traditional apprenticeship programmes, which were one of the casualties of the financial crash, but we are succeeding in bring the apprenticeship model into really exciting new careers, such as ICT, Financial Services and Hospitality."