Industrial Training (Designation of Sectors of Industry) Order, 1994: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann approves the following Order in draft:

Industrial Training (Designation of Sectors of Industry) Order, 1994

a copy of which Order in draft was laid before Seanad Éireann on Monday, 28 March, 1994.

This is a procedural matter. We had a long and lively debate in this Chamber on the issue of apprenticeships. This order must be brought before the House because it is a financial order and I am not the Minister for Finance. When a Minister, other than the Minister for Finance, introduces a motion which is a financial order he or she must present such an order to the House.

The purpose of the Industrial Training (Designation of Sectors of Industry) Order, 1994, is to designate the sectors of industry which will pay the apprenticeship training levy from 6 April 1994. The sectors are construction, engineering — excluding electronics — and printing and paper. It is proposed to make this order under section 3 of the Industrial Training (Apprenticeship Levy) Act, 1994, which recently completed its passage through both Houses of the Oireachtas and came into effect on 25 March 1994.

As Senators will recall from the debate of this Act, the levy is designed to partially fund the off-the-job training of apprentices in the new standards based system. The training levy of 0.25 per cent and its application to the three sectors listed in the Schedule to the order were agreed by the social partners in the Central Review Committee of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

So far as the designation order itself is concerned, the order is straightforward. The industrial activities in the construction, engineering — excluding electronics — electronics and printing and paper sectors, which have already been designated under the Industrial Training Act, 1967, will be deemed to be designated industrial centres for the purposes of section 3 of this Bill. In accordance with the agreement of the Central Review Committee of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, electronics is excluded.

Paragraph 3 of the Schedule states that local authorities will be required to pay the levy as far as their construction activities are concerned. This accords with the current levy/grant arrangement between FÁS and the local authorities. We have had a long and fruitful debate on this issue and this is formalising the results of that debate.

The Minister said this is purely a procedural matter. It is our good fortune that in moving the motion, the Minister is not the Minister for Finance. We agree with the motion.

I commend the Minister and her officials for their prompt follow through with this order after the recent passing of the Act designating the construction, engineering, printing and paper industries. These industries have been designated in this way because the vast majority of apprentices work in them. The Act and the levy agreed in it grew out of the decisions made by the social partners. It illustrates once more the value of this type of partnership and consensus. Since this had been already agreed by the relevant partners before the Minister came before the House we were able to give legal effect to it.

The companies in these industries will have to pay a certain amount towards the levy. They should be seen to invest in the skilled workforce because they, in turn, will gain from the enhancement of the apprentices' skills. The Minister is keen that there should be a follow through by the employers on the question of equity. I hope the code of practice, which already exists on a voluntary basis, can be satisfactorily concluded on the question of access of apprentices. Apprenticeships would then be seen to be given on merit as opposed to knowing someone.

In the debate the Minister underlined the fact that competitiveness is a key component of this issue. This is a recurring theme as far as any enhancement of skills is concerned. Naturally, anything that contributes positively to Ireland's competitiveness is to be welcomed.

The Minister also said that the idea of this scheme is to bring the skill levels up to international standards. That focuses one's attention, however briefly, on the European scene. Europe, of which we are a part, has considerable strengths. It currently has 6 per cent of the world's population but 30 per cent of its wealth. However, the outlook is not all that certain in terms of retaining the competitive edge, of which skills are a component. Since global competition is growing in other parts of the world, especially in the Pacific Rim countries, we need to be competitive, as does Europe as a whole, vis-a-vis the rest of the world. Ireland is in good shape. Exports as a proportion of imports have declined over the last ten to 12 years in Europe. In 1980, Ireland's exports made up a smaller proportion of imports than is now the case; we are in better shape than the rest of Europe in that regard.

The Minister referred to labour productivity as being important in this context. Labour productivity in the United States is 10 per cent higher than in Europe and 40 per cent higher than in Japan. This gets us back to the need to close the gap and to make up on any skill deficiencies to enhance our competitiveness. This order is a step in the right direction. Skill enhancement is crucial to keep up with our European competitors, to become involved in the Single Market and to be competitive outside the European scene.

As the Minister highlighted in her speech, the certification of skills, which proves that certain standards have been reached, is vital in the European and world contexts. The emphasis on certification is one of the most important features of the new apprenticeship system. People who served their time often did a good job but many of them never sat an examination or got a certificate to prove they had achieved the appropriate standards.

I hope the code of practice in relation to equity will be satisfactorily concluded on a voluntarily basis. Now that the Act is in place and levies are forthcoming, employers will recognise the value which will be added to their employees and to their output and they will then be able to improve their productivity and competitiveness. I look forward to the type of response which is essential for employers to take on apprentices and train them.

I support this motion. It is important that people, particularly young people, are capable of doing their job properly. I welcome the levy to partially fund this system of job training.

I welcome the Motion; I also welcome the Minister to the House. I have had discussions with people in industry — for example the clothing and steel industries — and they have said that employers are worried about the amount of time their employees are spending on off the job training schemes and on FÁS schemes. I welcome extra training for those already working in order to improve their skills, but emphasis must be placed on protecting people. We are not creating enough opportunities for people in the workforce to train in other areas; in other words, there should be job diversification. The levies may cause employers to ask if it is worthwhile to create extra job opportunities here rather than elsewhere; we lost clothing plants to the United Kingdom over the last few months. This should be considered.

People must be highly skilled, particularly our young people. However, too many of them are not working and must go elsewhere to find employment. Employers believe there are too many off the job training schemes and that there should be more on the job training and diversification. This would mean that employers would not lose out if there was restructuring in a specific area and workers would not lose their jobs. The workers should be retrained; it is important that people on the job should be ready and able to do any job within a particular manufacturing area.

While the social partners might have signed agreements — reached even before they are agreed in these Houses — we must ask if they are sincere. There were no extra jobs created following the agreements made in 1987 and 1989. About five times more people are unemployed now than in 1987. That is very serious. The danger is that we are creating a situation where it is better not to work than to work, and we are imposing extra levies on employers. I do not wish to carry the flag for any employer but I will be discussing this later in the context of the terms of employment legislation. There is too much off the job training; there should be more on the job training. Is it costing employers too much to create apprenticeships?

I welcome members of the European Parliament who are here on a language course.

I compliment the Minister in supporting this order. We are now dealing with the designated areas of the construction, engineering and printing industries for apprenticeships. This motion is timely, particularly coming to the end of a school year when we need to know exactly what is coming on stream in terms of apprenticeships, and the levy we now have to fund these apprenticeships.

The Minister might take note that a public relations campaign alerting the public to the existence of these apprenticeships might be needed between now and the end of June. People are not familiar with what is coming on stream and, on the passing of this Bill, there should be a public relations exercise telling the people what the Minister is doing. She has done a lot of work in a short time to get the apprenticeship scheme off the ground. I have been dealing with these matters for a long time and this is the first time I have seen substance in the way we handle apprenticeships. The Minister must be complimented for her getting this scheme going so quickly to help our young people to get into construction, for example, now that the building industry is picking up again. There are apprenticeships available but we must mobilise our forces to make sure that those apprenticeships go to the right people.

I support Senator Ormonde's point that the value of apprenticeships is not sufficiently addressed by parents. From her experience, Senator Ormonde would know that publicity directed at the parents would be useful because these are worthwhile training jobs.

My eyes have been opened over the last number of months in the Dáil and Seanad as to how alive this debate is. There was an informed, lively, constructive and comprehensive debate on all stages of the Bill. Even on this motion, which I thought would take a minute, points are being raised. As I said last week, this is a House of good debate.

I thank Senators Manning, Hillery, Calnan, Cregan, Ormonde and Henry for their comments. Senator Hillery raised the issue of competitiveness; we cannot stress that enough. Senator Calnan stressed the need for training. I think Senator Cregan was speaking in general terms about training as distinct from apprenticeship training, and made the point that employers are asking for more in-house training in firms because that is where the experience can be gained.

Today's visit of the European delegation is opportune because training, education and apprenticeships are of interest throughout Europe and the rest of the world. In answer to Senator Cregan, employers will contribute between £3 million and £4 million to the fund and the total cost of the scheme is £30 million per year; this means employers contribute about one-eighth of the total.

Senator Ormonde returned to the point she made on Second Stage of the Bill, which was the need for a publicity campaign to make this Bill known. I intend to meet parents' groups and guidance counsellors, as she suggested on Second Stage. Senator Henry echoed that point. There is too much concentration on white or blue collar jobs as distinct from the other options available to young people. I hope this addresses that matter.

Question put and agreed to.