With house prices continuing to rise, and the demand for housing outstripping supply, it is a busy time for the construction industry. A survey conducted by the Dublin Institute of Technology on behalf of the Construction Industry Federation has found that there is not the number of apprentices in construction to meet the country's housing and infrastructure needs.
Dermot Carey, Director of Safety and Training with the Construction Industry Federation, said the report indicates that there are shortages in the "wet trades" - plastering, brick laying, floor and wall tiling, and painting and decorating. "They would be some of the key trades needed for residential construction," he said, "but while the construction industry is recovering, our survey indicates that there are particular problems in some areas of the apprenticeship model."
In these areas, the employers tend to be small, family-based businesses employing less than 10 people, and Mr Carey said these employers remember the recession. "They are reluctant to recruit people and that's an issue that we need to overcome. It is that cohort of employer that we need to incentivise to take on apprentices in this area, but we also need to promote apprenticeship in these skills and trades to school leavers."
Mr Carey agreed that it is in the interest of employers to take on apprentices but memories of the recession has led to a reluctance to recruit, particularly in small firms. "Also, these people are committing to a four-year training regime. At the moment, they can't see beyond six months to a year, so that commitment for four years is one that they are not taking on."
There are a number of recommendations outlined in the report. Mr Carey said one recommendation is to incentivise those particular employers to get involved in training. "Also the structure in which the current apprenticeship model is delivered on their behalf needs to be addressed, in that currently it requires the trainee, in phase two of the apprenticeship, to leave the employer and go to a training centre and they are gone for 22 weeks," he explained. "That's quite a considerable amount of time to be away from a small employer. Also I think we need to look at innovation and delivery of the apprenticeship scheme, specifically for those apprenticeships that are struggling."
The Construction Industry Federation suggests shorter durations of time away from the employer, so that the employer can better plan their work. "In the past there used to be a day release scheme, or a week on/week off scheme, so we need to be a bit more innovative and consider how employers work," Mr Carey said.
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