More skilled construction workers needed to solve crisis


Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh.

Oisín McGovern

MORE apprenticeships are needed in order to tackle the housing crisis, according to Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh.
The Sinn Féin TD, who is party spokesperson on Higher and Further Education, maintains the Government is not doing enough to the address the shortage of apprenticeships, which in turn is leading to a shortage of skilled construction workers.
Apprentices require both on-the-job and off-the-job training to qualify as skilled workers in their area of expertise. Alluding to the huge backlog of apprentices waiting for off-the-job apprenticeship training, she expressed frustration at the ‘extremely slow’ pace at which the Government is addressing the situation.
While welcoming some of the measures introduced in Budget 2022, Deputy Conway Walsh believes more needs to be done to address the issue in second- and third-level education.
“Part of it is that we don’t have enough guidance councillors in schools that have the time to be able to sit down with students to properly discuss the apprenticeship options.
“Apprenticeships aren’t just for younger people, they are for people thinking about making a change in career and looking at what they can do from there.”
While welcoming the continuation of the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme, which provides financial support for employers who take on apprentices, Deputy Conway-Walsh said apprenticeships need to be made more attractive to young people.
“Some people don’t agree with having apprenticeships on the CAO, but I would disagree with that. We need to make that just as attractive as any other course,” she said.
“You know how difficult it is to get a plumber or tiler or an electrician. People can earn a very good living out of apprenticeship. We’re not going to be able to build the houses without labour and apprenticeships.
“It has become really urgent that we get the apprenticeship model right, like what they have in Germany.”
The former senator and county councillor suggested that pathways be put in place to allow qualified apprentices to pursue further education.
“There’s no reason why somebody couldn’t start off doing an apprenticeship and end up doing a PhD. We need to knock down these barriers,” she said.

Training time-lag
Director of Services for Housing with Mayo County Council Tom Gilligan also said that more apprenticeships would be needed to address the shortage of skilled labour in construction.
However, Mr Gilligan cautioned that it would take some time to train enough tradespeople to address the country’s ongoing housing problems.
“Trying to find builders, carpenters, plumbers and tradespeople is getting increasingly difficult,” he said.
“It’s getting more difficult to get a carpenter or block layer to take on a job of an individual house.
“Apart from a [housing] supply shortage, we’ve a serious skill shortage as well, and the [Government’s] Housing for All plan is trying to address that, but that’s going to take time.”