Plumbing apprentices on the rise

*** NO REPRODUCTION FEE *** DUBLIN : 1/04/2015 :An Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD was joined by Construction Industry Federation (CIF) Director General Tom Parlon (centre) and CIF President Michael Stone (left) to launch a new campaign aimed at helping unemployed construction workers regain employment in the construction sector. The launch was held at the John Paul construction site at the National Gallery, Merrion Square, Dublin 2. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

The campaign will highlight the numerous services the Department provides to businesses to boost employment, while firms will also be put in contact with experienced workers keen to get back into the industry.
Former construction workers still make up the largest segment of unemployed people in Ireland. The latest reports show there are approximately 80,000 jobseekers from the construction industry on the Live Register, 66% of whom have been unemployed for one year or longer.

Programmes including JobsPlus, Jobs Ireland Recruitment Service, JobBridge and EmployAbility Service are now available (at no cost) to help employers take on new, experienced workers and buck this trend.
It’s no surprise that the number of people entering into construction apprenticeships over the past few years has been alarmingly low. The good news is that the most recent statistics paint a more optimistic picture, with numbers most definitely on the rise. In 2014 the number of new apprentices rose by 660, with over 2,100 new apprenticeship registrations taking place in the course of the year. The big increases were in plumbing, electrical and carpentry; plumbing experienced an increase of 77 apprentices, growing by 32% to 318.

“These apprentices are in domestic plumbing and also in the larger M&E companies,”said CIF Director General Tom Parlon. “We’re constantly encouraging our members to take on apprentices and it’s good to see the numbers growing. The industry will need to see that increase continue in 2015 and beyond if we’re to meet the expected demand for construction activity in the coming years.”
The CIF is currently pushing for a new incentive which would further boost the numbers of apprenticeships in the industry.
Tom added, “We’re hoping that the JobsPlus programme will soon include incentives for employers to take on more apprentices. A lot of the people likely to take on apprentices are smaller players and if our social house building ramps up, as promised by the Government, then we’re certainly going to need those skills.”

According to Tom, the typical small firm in the construction sector is reluctant to take on apprentices.
“An employer will take on an apprentice for four years but the serious lack of confidence in the sector means there’s a reluctance there to take on someone for four weeks never mind four years. So to encourage the smaller player, we’re hoping that an incentive will be provided which would mean that for the first two years an employer would get between €7,500 and €10,000 if they take on an apprentice. That’s a very attractive incentive and would, we believe, help to further boost numbers and drive the sector.

We’re pushing very strongly for this to go through.”
Tom believes the industry will benefit from new blood and will perhaps create new ways of working. “We feel that a lot of the skilled people in the sector are getting that bit older. New apprentices are a great way of freshening up the industry. We also feel that there’s been a substantial bias against trades and skills over the past few years.

“The industry took a hiding in terms of jobs and activity levels and its reputation was battered. It wasn’t deemed an attractive place to work. I think that’s changing now and already we’re seeing a big increase in the numbers applying to do construction related courses from the CAO.”

The latest figures show that employment in the construction industry grew by a total of 13,100 in 2014, meaning construction was responsible for 45% of the additional jobs created throughout the economy. With the sector now expected to enter a period of sustained growth, the CIF is encouraging construction firms in Ireland to start taking on apprentices again and indeed workers who wish to return to the sector.
Tom said, “We need to futureproof our sector. It’s crucial that the industry plays its part in ensuring skilled workers are there to meet the demand we fully expect to see.”
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