A pilot scheme encouraging building contractors to hire more apprentices is being rolled out nationwide.
It is estimated 2,300 extra apprentices will be needed in Ireland by 2020, to meet key housing and infrastructure needs.
In 2016, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) launched the Shared Apprenticeship Scheme which allowed four of its member companies to take on apprentices as part of a consortium.
One year on, its success has meant it will be expanded countrywide.
The scheme gave the contractors the opportunity to share apprentices with other members if the pace of work lessened, therefore providing consistent training and work experience for the apprentices involved.
Contractors had previously expressed concern about taking on apprentices in the event of work drying up.
Dermot Carey, CIF’s director of safety and training, said the scheme provided a “safety net” to employers.
“Thanks to the recovery in the economy, the companies involved have not needed to share their apprentices but, nonetheless, that safety net was there for these companies and it gave them the confidence to take on these apprentices once again,” said Mr Carey, adding that the scheme will now be put on a national footing.
“One of the companies had never taken on an apprentice before and they found it so beneficial they started taking on apprentices in their own right also,” he said.
“The scheme is currently being rolled out across Ireland and while it is not going to be the only solution to the low numbers of apprentices that we are experiencing, it will certainly be part of the solution.”
The four companies that participated in the pilot scheme were Clancy Construction, Cleary-Doyle Construction, Anthony Neville Homes, and Mythen Construction. They took on four apprentices between them.
Managing director Anthony Neville said he has now taken on three apprentices as a result of the scheme when, in the past, he had been “fearful” of hiring them.
“It has been a huge success,” he said. “The Shared Apprenticeship Scheme meant that I had the confidence to take on a young block layer and I can look at his mother and father and say ‘if I don’t have work I am also partnered with these companies who will’, because one of the things we were fearful of in the past was hiring young Johnny and then the work drying up in nine months’ time and having to let young Johnny go.
“With this scheme, if my block work situation dries up for whatever reason, I can go to the other three companies to find him work.
“The scheme gave me the confidence to take on apprentices. I had no apprentices, then the Shared Apprenticeship Scheme was set up and now I have three.”
John O’Shaughnessy, MD of Clancy Construction, said despite a fear to hire apprentices in the past in case work ran out, the scheme proved this not to be the case.
“The initial idea was that four companies would come together as a consortium to take on block laying apprentices,” he said. “One of the reasons for this was that none of the companies felt at the time that they had sufficient work to keep an apprentice going over a four-year period.
“The funny thing was that we didn’t end up sharing the apprentices because we didn’t need to, none of the companies ran out of work.”
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