26 January 2016
Apprentices look beyond construction as rebuild continues
Aine McMahon, Carl O'Brien
January 26, 2016
Just seven people signed up last year for an apprenticeship to become a plasterer, official figures show.
The number of apprenticeship places fell dramatically following the economic crash, down from about 29,000 in 2007 to below 6,000 in 2013.
However, the figures have started climbing again in the past two years, with apprentices in the construction trade more than doubling from 380 in 2013 to 730 last year.
Numbers are still relatively low for some sectors of the construction industry such as painting/decorating and plastering.
Apprenticeships offered in construction included those in bricklaying and stonelaying, carpentry and joinery, floor and wall tiling, painting and decorating, pipefitting, plastering and plumbing.
However, this year 25 apprenticeships will be introduced in new areas by Solas, the State agency which oversees the further education and training sector.
They will include apprenticeships in financial services, accounting, medical devices, software development, travel agency, butchery, cheffing, warehousing and plastics technology.
As the economy grows, the Government has projected that some 50,000 new apprenticeship and trainee places will be created over the next five years.
In the meantime, the number completing apprenticeships in construction is unlikely to meet the projected demand for jobs over the coming years.
Apprenticeships are run over four years and split between on-site training and classroom-based learning.
This means those who began training last year will not be fully qualified until 2019, at a time when several thousand new homes need to be built.
Figures for 2015 show the number of people who have taken up apprenticeships in the areas where skills in the housing shortage will be needed. There will be 19 painter/decorators, seven plasterers and 26 brick and stonelayers qualified in 2019.
Figures show 291 people signed up last year for an apprenticeship in carpentry and joinery, compared with 185 in 2014. However 289 people signed up for an apprenticeship in plumbing last year, compared with 318 in 2014.
In 2013, 2014 and 2015 there were no applicants for apprenticeships in floor and wall tiling. An apprenticeship in pipefitting bucked the trend, going from zero in 2012 and 2013 to 37 last year.
Stonecutting and stonemasonry is making a comeback; zero people trained in 2013, but 16 trained in 2014 and 13 in 2015.
The minimum educational qualifications needed to become an apprentice are five D grades in the Junior Certificateexamination or equivalent, or successfully complete an approved pre-apprenticeship course, or be over 16 years of age and have at least three years relevant work experience, approved by Solas.
There are currently 8,317 people completing apprenticeships in five sectors: construction, electrical work, engineering, motor mechanics and printing.
A major overhaul of State-sponsored apprenticeships was unveiled last year, aimed at providing school-leavers with a “viable, legitimate, positive alternative path” to third-level education, and is set to be rolled out this year.