In 2005, almost 600 people took up apprenticeships to become a brick layer – this year, that figure is just 63 

The government has failed to address a chronic skills deficit in the construction industry, according to Social Democrats Housing Spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan.

“Prof John Fitzgerald has warned the government will have to choose between retrofitting, to make homes more energy efficient, or building new homes due to a skills shortage. This ominous warning should not come as a surprise to anyone in government. For years, the construction industry has repeatedly warned that a skills deficit, and a very low number of construction apprenticeships, is seriously undermining its capacity to increase the supply of new homes.

“The government has not only failed to act on these warnings. It has ignored its own expert group’s report. The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs projects the number of new entrants needed each year in the construction industry to meet the country’s needs. The 2020 study found we needed at least 115 new entrant plasterers each year. So far this year, only 15 people have registered for a plasterer apprenticeship. This is clearly nowhere near enough to meet demand.

“Currently, there is a particular deficit in apprenticeships in wet trades, which includes plasterers and bricklayers. For example, in 2005 almost 600 people took up apprenticeships to become a brick layer. This year, only 63 people have begun an apprenticeship in this core area. There is a growing skills crisis in the construction industry, which the government must urgently address.

“Only 4pc of employees in core-built environment occupations are women. A very significant increase in our capacity to build new homes and retrofit our existing stock can be achieved if we successfully attract more women into the industry and into apprenticeships. We must broaden and diversify the pool of new entrants in the construction industry if we are to meet our climate change responsibilities and our growing housing need.”

“The two biggest challenges facing the country are climate change and the housing crisis. We have seen lots of rhetoric from the government, promising to prioritise these issues, but very little decisive action. Ireland is lagging far behind other European countries when it comes to retrofitting our existing housing stock and increasing the energy efficiency of our homes. The Government cannot afford to sit back and simply hope that the skilled workers will fall from the sky. It must act decisively to address the skills shortage before it gets any worse.”

11 August, 2021


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