Implementing Generation Apprenticeship at Levels 9 and 10 on the NFQ

Launching UL cyber security

Who we are

The University of Limerick (UL) has an excellent track record of expanding the knowledge and skills base of professional and flexible learners. In its many programmes on offer, UL leverages cooperation between industry and academia to combine professional experience on the job, with excellent teaching and research staff to meet the current and future needs of industry. With connections to a range of industry groups, UL has insight into the demands that exist within industry for talent retention and development, for crucial research and business excellence.

What we did

As part of Generation Apprenticeship, we engaged and collaborated with a number of industry consortia to successfully develop, expand, and deliver apprenticeships at higher National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) levels, including the world’s first doctoral level apprenticeship. Generation Apprenticeship launched in 2016 to expand apprenticeship as an education and training route beyond the traditional craft/trade apprenticeships, with the ambition to have apprenticeships addressed at all levels of the NFQ. Each apprenticeship is led by an industry consortium in collaboration with the education providers and is focused on a specific occupation that is legally defined. To date, seven apprenticeships have been developed by the University of Limerick in partnership with five industry-led consortia:

– Level 7: Supply Chain Associate: 2 years, Diploma in Supply Chain Management Operations, 120 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System credits)

– Level 8: Cybersecurity Practitioner: 3 years, BSc in Cybersecurity, 180 ECTS

– Level 8: Supply Chain Specialist: 2 years, BSc in in Supply Chain Management, 120 ECTS

– Level 9 Supply Chain Manager: 2 years, MSc in Supply Chain Operations, 96 ECTS

– Level 9: Lean Sigma Manager: 2 years, MSc in Strategic Quality Management – Lean Sigma Systems, 96 ECTS

– Level 9: Equipment Systems Engineer: 2 years, MEng in Equipment Systems Engineering, 96 ECTS

– Level 10: Principal Engineer: 4 years, Doctorate in Engineering, 270 ECTS


first ul apprenticeship grad

Impact Achieved

Apprenticeship has long been an accelerator for individual and corporate development in Ireland. Generation Apprenticeship is a major expansion project which aims to more than double the number of learners taking the apprenticeship route.

In 2016, apprenticeships focused on the craft and trade occupations, and nationally there were 25 apprenticeships running all at NFQ Level 6. By 2021, the number of apprenticeships had increased to 62, ranging from Level 5 to Level 10 with the University of Limerick coordinating six apprenticeships from Level 7 (undergraduate degree), to Level 10 (doctorate).

The apprenticeship programmes have increased participation in lifelong learning by those working in industry. For example, in the year following the introduction of the apprenticeship route option on the MSc in Strategic Quality Management and the Diploma in Supply Chain Management Operations, the number of students enrolled on each increased by 75 and 93 percent respectively. In January 2022, there were over 200 apprentices registered in UL across all six programmes. This includes 152 students registered on the three masters level programmes and a further 12 registered at level 10. The UL Generation Apprenticeship programmes have proven that the apprenticeship route can be successfully implemented at all levels of the NFQ. The Level 10 Principal Engineer (Doctorate in Engineering) is the first doctoral level apprenticeship globally.


Testimonials from students on programme:

“Overall, the course has expanded my knowledge base to cover a number of different topics, but more importantly helped to improve my understanding of the interaction of the company/departments. The biggest impact to the company from this course would be my level of confidence increasing and my interest growing outside my current department into a view of the company as a whole, and “the programme provides a foundation of knowledge compartmentalised into the different components of supply chain management as well as the different aspects of business and when all the learnings are applied in the working environment, the results are very significant. From a competency and confidence perspective, I can testify from my own experience the benefits are enormous.”

– Supply Chain Manager Apprentice


The best part of the programme that has had the greatest influence over my role to date has been the assignment of a mentor for the duration of the programme. As the course demands a lot of in-house work in the company, I found that the experience of someone who has gone through the process definitely helps the student on direction with college projects, company projects and the overall lean journey.”

– Lean Sigma Manager Apprentice

With the first graduates conferred in August 2022, we know that the level 9 and 10 apprenticeships have increased the translation of industry expertise from different domains into a format that is useable in an academic context for research and teaching.

It is anticipated that the provision of enterprise specific research at level 9 and 10 will have a wide impact on industry.


Ul graduates

What we learned

– Apprenticeship is an effective route to developing skills at every level of the NFQ but requires a clearly defined occupational profile.

– An apprenticeship is a very specific and focused type of education and training programme, and this must be kept at the forefront of the design.

– An active and committed industry consortia partnered with a willing education provider is critical to the successful implementation.

– Industry direction on the Occupational Profile is critical; the key function of the industry partner is defining the skills and competencies to be delivered. Industry’s ongoing role as consortium lead is to ensure this profile remains appropriate for the needs of industry.

– Clear focus on NFQ award descriptors and learning outcomes allow the skills and knowledge described in the occupational profile to be very successfully translated into the assessment and learning requirements needed to design and accredit a programme.

– The focus on learning outcomes allowed the skills and knowledge described in the occupation profile to be very successfully translated into the assessment and learning requirements needed to design and accredit a programme.

– Academic rigour, adherence to quality standards, flexibility in delivery and inclusion of specific industry requirements have served to ensure that the standards expected by the University, Industry and apprentices are upheld and delivered upon.

– A policy for the provision of apprenticeships that outlines the implementation and delivery of the programme with both on the job and off the job learning requirements needs to be in place.

– The commitment of employers through the provision of an in-company mentor to support and drive the apprentices’ learning, and the provision of enhanced flexibility for learners to participate and attend studies, whilst also having the scope within the enterprise to engage in practical and worthwhile initiatives, is crucial to the development and ongoing success of the apprenticeship.

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