A major shortage of construction workers is being made worse by a “myriad of problems” in the apprenticeship system, the president of Cork Institute of Technology has said.
Barry O’Connor was speaking as the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) warned of nine in 10 firms experiencing “severe difficulties” in sourcing tradespeople, especially in block laying, plastering, tiling, and painting and decorating.
The CIF report said there was also “a severe lack of engineers, quantity surveyors, foremen, project managers, general operatives, ground workers and apprentices”.
Three-quarters of firms said the recruitment issues are having a direct effect on their ability to deliver projects on time.
The CIF’s Dermot Casey said a negative perception of trades remained.
There is a noble purpose to a career in construction and we have to get that message out to young people. Unfortunately, schools are only considered truly successful when over 95% of their students go on to third level.
“The high dropout rates of young people after one year in colleges shows the problem with this thinking,” Mr Casey said.
Cork Institute of Technology president Mr O’Connor said there was a “myriad of problems” within the current apprenticeship system that was contributing to a dearth of tradespeople.
He said one issue was the fact that a person had to be tied to a specific tradesperson before academic training for the apprenticeship could be taken up in the likes of Cork Institute of Technology.
Mr O’Connor pointed to careers like IT where certain overall skills were learned before deciding what specific avenue to go down.
The fact that young people had to be apprentices tied to a specific tradesperson meant they were the most vulnerable to being let go in a downturn, Mr O’Connor said.
The CIF has officially called for work permits to be issued for tradespeople based outside the EU, such is the lack of talent, it said.
The Department of Business currently considers bricklayers, roofers, plumbers, carpenters, plasterers, floorers and wall tilers, painters and decorators, and construction and building trades supervisors to be ineligible to n on-EU workers, which had to change, according to the CIF.
The building body has made a submission to the department to have what it called “a number of essential trades added to the eligibility list for work permits for those outside the EU”.