Cian O'Callaghan TD

The government is not a mere bystander in this crisis – it must play an active role

The government has no coherent plan to increase the number of apprenticeships in key trades in the construction industry, according to Social Democrats Housing Spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan.

“Taoiseach Micheál Martin has encouraged young people finishing their Leaving Cert to consider a career in the construction industry while Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has said parents should advise their children to consider starting an apprenticeship.

“The government is not a mere bystander in this crisis whose only recourse is to plead with parents and young people to consider the limited number of apprenticeships that currently exist. As the largest purchaser of construction contracts in the country, it could play a much more active role by making the awarding of public procurement contracts contingent on the number of apprenticeships in key trades being increased.

“Minister Harris, who has overall responsibility for skills and training in this area, must also urgently publish a plan that will see targeted resources directed to bolster the number of construction apprenticeships and training courses being offered.

“The country is in the midst of a huge skills crisis in the construction industry, exacerbated by a chronic shortage of apprenticeships – particularly in wet trades. Last year, a report from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs found we need at least 115 new entrant plasters each year. So far this year, just 15 people have registered for a plasterer apprenticeships.

“Consider that in 2005, nearly 600 people started apprenticeships to become a bricklayer. This year, just 63 people have taken up an apprenticeship in this trade. There is a long-standing, and rapidly growing, skills crisis in the construction industry which the government must urgently address.

“According to the government’s Housing For All plan, we need 27,000 new construction workers to meet increased demand for housing. We also need to retrofit tens of thousands of existing homes. What is the government’s plan to locate, and train, these workers? Currently, there is no coherent plan.

“As it stands, given the chronic shortage in the number of apprenticeships that exists, both the Taoiseach and the Minister are advising young people to consider apprenticeships that currently do not exist.”

12 September, 2021


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