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Apprenticeship model requires upgrade to address Ireland’s skills shortages

May 2018 Latest News | Comments Off on Apprenticeship model requires upgrade to address Ireland’s skills shortages

A survey conducted by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) on behalf of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has found that Ireland lacks the requisite number of apprentices in construction to meet its housing and infrastructure needs.

The survey found that 86% of construction companies are experiencing issues as a result of an inadequate supply of qualified tradespeople and this figure increases to 94% of large respondent firms. It also revealed that just one in three construction companies surveyed said they currently employed apprentices.

The CIF/DIT report recommends that urgent action is taken by government and industry to re-purpose the apprenticeship model.

Dermot Carey, director of safety and training at CIF, said: “Apprentices are essential to the development of a modern construction industry. Around 2006, we had over 25,000 apprentices in the industry and an annual registration of 8,306. Today, we only have around 3,000 new registrations annually. We have only seven female apprentices in the construction industry. The industry is in strong recovery mode and employment is increasing by about 10,000 workers per year, but we are not seeing sufficient numbers coming through the apprenticeship model.

“If the construction industry continues to grow as forecast, a lack of apprenticeships will have a long-term impact on our ability to grow, it will put upward pressure on wages across the industry and ultimately, it is possible some trades will be left with a void of homegrown talent.

“The pipeline for construction activity is very strong, with predictions of between 9% and 14% annual growth for the coming years. Now is an ideal time to address any shortcomings and to ensure that the system is delivering for the apprentice, industry and the State.

“This survey shows that for many companies, particularly the SME cohort (about 99% of the industry), taking on an apprentice is beyond their financial capacity. In other words, a gap has emerged between industry and the apprentice in trades that are critical to the delivery of the housing and infrastructure which our society and economy requires.”

Only 29% of respondent companies currently employ apprentices and the most common by number employed remains Electrician.

The survey report’s authors Eoghan Ó Murchadha and Dr Róisín Murphy of DIT concluded from the low number of firms taking on apprentices that there is residual uncertainty within the industry and consequently a reluctance to employ apprentices for up to four years.

“For some companies, the threat of entering into another recession in the future may act as a deterrent to staff recruitment, most notably apprentices,” the report states.

The report makes several recommendations, including:

  • The introduction of a scheme of ‘zero-rating’ employers PRSI contributions for those firms engaging apprentices in trades, which are identified as being in dire need of stimulus.
  • A review of the duration and sequence of off-the-job phases be undertaken as part of a planned initiative to improve employer engagement.
  • A grant system be put in place, paid in full by the exchequer, for apprenticeship trainees for certain construction trades until such time as the shortage has been fully addressed.
  • The establishment of a collaborative forum (involving all stakeholders) to actively and collectively market the construction industry as a viable and diverse career choice.
  • The CIF Apprenticeship Working Group authorised this research as part of an ongoing PhD project currently being undertaken in DIT. The report is an independent investigation offering unique insight gained directly from construction employers.

    The majority of respondents to the survey were small to medium size enterprises employing fewer than 10 people and individually do not employ apprentices in large numbers. As a group, they represent the largest cohort within the industry and collectively employ more than any other subsection of the sector.