Ireland could create 80,000 jobs by retrofitting government buildings and other properties in public ownership, a union conference has heard.

Technical Engineering and Electrical Union General Secretary Eamon Devoy said the country needs to refocus on manufacturing in both new and established industries.

He said retrofitting buildings, including schools and local authority housing, would ultimately be self-financing in energy savings.

Mr Devoy also voiced concern about the plight of 2,800 redundant apprentices.

He said they were trapped in the system, as they are unable to complete their apprenticeships, but said they could at least seek jobs abroad if they could complete their training.

The general secretary acknowledged progress in reducing the number of apprentices in this position from 10,000 two years ago.

However, he said the hidden tragedy remained that thousands of young school leavers are denied access to training and potential careers because opportunities in traditional crafts had been largely closed off.

He called for the establishment of a Task Force on Job Creation to report within six months to identify opportunities at home and abroad.