Warning of skills shortage despite apprenticeship rise

Despite a 45% increase in the number of people signing up to construction apprenticeships, the Constuction Industry Federation has warned that there will be major skills shortages in the sector in years to come unless more apprentices are secured.

CIF said it was a positive trend that between 2013 and 2014, the number of new trainees increased by 660 to 2,100.

However, it pointed out that there were some skills where there were few if any new apprentices.

In particular, the ‘wet’ trades were very under-subscribed.

There were no entrants to floor and wall tiling, just 11 to painting and decorating, and nine to plastering.

“The big increases were in electrical, carpentry, and plumbing apprenticeships,” a CIF spokesman said.

“The number of new electrical apprentices grew by 323, or 62% to 845 in 2014. Carpentry apprenticeships grew by 87% to 185, an increase of 86, and plumbing experienced an increase of 77 apprentices, growing by 32% to 318.

“The only construction apprenticeship to experience a decrease was toolmaking, which dropped by 15 apprentices to 66 in 2014, a fall of 19%.”

Nonetheless, CIF director general Tom Parlon said that the industry will need to see the increase continue in 2015 if it is to cater to the extra demand for construction activity in the coming years.

“There have been too few people beginning construction apprenticeships and learning valuable construction skills in recent years,” said Mr Parlon.

“This is a particularly negative impact of the downturn and one which could have significant implications for the future of the industry if it is not tackled now,” he explained.

“It is true that there are still large numbers of unemployed former construction workers who are currently filling positions as they become available.

“However, if we do not start increasing the talent pool for these important skills then we will run into problems within the next few years.”

Mr Parlon pointed to the low numbers taking up brick and stonelaying — just 20 — as well as plastering and painting and decorating.

“This will not be enough to meet the expected demand for activity as house building picks up and the rest of the industry sees further growth,” he said.

“We have to get more people to start these apprenticeships now before this develops into a real problem. The CIF is encouraging all the larger construction companies in Ireland to start taking on apprentices again.

“We need to future-proof our industry from a problem that we can already see developing and the industry has to play its part in tackling that problem.”


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