Further blow to housing targets as new apprenticeships fall 

Further blow to housing targets as new apprenticeships fall 

Apprenticeships were heralded as a key part of Ireland's effort to build more homes File picture: Andrew Matthews/PA

The Government has been dealt a further blow to its housing targets as new figures reveal a fall in the number of people registering for apprenticeships.

There was a drop more than 300 apprenticeship registrations last year compared to 2021 — down from 8,607 to 8,286.

The Government’s target is to achieve 10,000 sign-ups every year by 2025 as part of its strategy to tackle housing shortages.

Pressure is mounting on Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to increase the State’s housing targets of 33,000 homes per year after the Housing Commission indicated that Ireland requires between 42,000 and 62,000 new homes every year to meet demand.

Mr O’Brien and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cited soaring costs as well as construction skills shortages as factors that will hinder the Government from reaching its targets.

Social Democrats housing spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan said State construction contracts should have a stipulate that a certain number of workers hired must be apprentices to ensure a pipeline of people is coming through the schemes. He said: 

They haven’t taken any real initiative to increase the numbers and the incentives in place aren’t attractive enough.

The Irish Examiner understands the Government is considering introducing two-year traineeships to accelerate getting workers on construction sites to help meet housing targets.

A Government source said the initiative is in its infancy, but discussions are taking place within the Department of Further and Higher Education on how the State could reform the apprenticeship model.

The traineeship model would run in parallel with apprenticeships but workers could be out on sites after two years for certain trades.

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien with students at Ardgillan Community College in Balbriggan who were competing in a Construction Industry Federation house design competition in 2020 focused on the CIF’s scholarship and apprenticeship programme. File picture: Conor McCabe
Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien with students at Ardgillan Community College in Balbriggan who were competing in a Construction Industry Federation house design competition in 2020 focused on the CIF’s scholarship and apprenticeship programme. File picture: Conor McCabe

“The upside is a traineeship is a shorter commitment but the department would have to ensure the quality control of the training and skills because you can’t take an apprenticeship that is a four-year programme and make it into a two-year course — that would make a mockery of the system,” the source said.

Construction Industry Federation director of safety and training Dermot Carey said inflation and the war in Ukraine had damaged the industry. He called on the Government to bring back a €3,000 grant that was given to employers if they registered an apprentice between March and December in 2021.

“I think it’s demonstrated that it was a significant attraction for employers to take people on and it should be reinstated in a targeted manner at what we deem to be wet trades such as bricklaying, stone-laying, plastering, and painting,” he said.

Note: This article was amended on 30.01.23 at 12.55 to include the correct the figure of apprenticeship registrations in 2022

An earlier version of this article stated that the decrease in apprenticeship registrations from 2021 to 2022 was close to 3,000.  The correct figure is 321 

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