Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (199)

Joe McHugh

Question:

199. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills his strategy and its achievements since March 2011 in supporting displaced construction workers to develop skill sets for deployment in growing and secure industries; if he will acknowledge the employment challenges that face displaced construction workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12893/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The training and upskilling of the country's workforce through a variety of further education and training programmes is a vital element of this country's recovery from the current downturn. It will also play a vital part in securing the future competitive advantage of all enterprises and in enhancing future growth in productivity in this country. My Department is providing a range of supports to unemployed people, including former construction workers, to up-skill and re-skill so that they are in a better position to avail of jobs as the economy recovers.

Unemployed construction workers can avail of a suitable training intervention from a range of FÁS training courses at levels 3-6 on the National Qualifications Framework, to meet their career and employment aspirations taking into account their previous education and experience, skill and expertise, the evolving labour market and skill needs of employers/sectors. Courses of particular interest to unemployed construction workers are FÁS 'green' energy courses as follows:

- Passive House ("A" rated) Building Envelope;

- Passive House Construction Mech Systems;

- Rainwater Harvesting;

- Domestic Thermal Insulation;

- Intelligent Building Control Systems;

- Small Scale Wind Systems Implementation;

- Micro Solar Photo Voltaic Systems Implementation.Pilot FÁS courses for which unemployed construction workers, amongst other groups, are being targeted:

- Overhead Line Worker being piloted by Tralee Training Centre, primarily aimed at unemployed construction operatives;

- Wind Turbine Maintenance to be piloted later this year by Tralee Training Centre, primarily aimed at unemployed electrical, plumbing mechanical construction craft workers).

The impact of the economic downturn has led to a collapse in demand for apprentices from employers, particularly in construction related trades. Significant numbers of apprentices have also been made redundant before completion of their training. To assist redundant apprentices to complete their apprenticeships, FÁS has put the following interim measures in place:

The temporary Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme (RAPS) provides supports for redundant apprentices to be placed with an employer to complete the minimum duration necessary to complete the on-the-job phases at Phase 3/5/7. Employers can apply to FÁS to participate in RAPS subject to meeting the eligibility criteria.

FÁS has also introduced a Competency Determination Mechanism (CDM). This mechanism will provide redundant apprentices who have a time deficit in their apprenticeship with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and knowledge against the occupational standard for the specified trade over a number of days in a FÁS Training Centre.

The Labour Market Activation Fund (LMAF) was launched in March 2010 and was designed to assist in the creation of training and education provision for specific priority groups among the unemployed, namely the low skilled, and those formerly employed in declining sectors including the construction sector. Over 12,500 unemployed people, including many former construction workers, benefited from training and education programmes when the fund ended in June 2011.

As part of the Government's "Action Plan for Jobs" initiative, FÁS is administering the Labour Market Education & Training Fund (LMETF) which was launched as MOMENTUM in December 2012. €20 million has been committed by the Department of Education & Skills through the National Training Fund. The aim of MOMENTUM is to provide a range of quality, relevant education & training interventions for up to 6,500 individuals who are long-term unemployed including former construction workers.

Skillnets funds enterprise-led training through a network model, where companies from networks representing specific industry sectors or geographical regions co-operate to deliver training programmes appropriate to current market requirements. It is committed to supporting former construction workers. While some of the training is designed to allow such job-seekers to secure employment within the construction sector, the main focus is on retraining former construction workers to enter alternative sectors with sustainable employment opportunities.

Job-seekers from the construction sector can access training in two ways: - 1 Training Networks Programme (TNP) In 2012 612 job-seekers from the construction sector undertook TNP/Finuas Training across 251 different training events. 162 of the trainees undertook certified training from Level 5 -9 on the NFQ or was certified by a professional body. Training was provided across a wide range of areas in growth sectors including ICT, Pharmaceuticals, Life Sciences, Food, Financial Services, Green Economy, Agriculture, and Manufacturing. - 2 Job-seekers Support Programme (JSSP) Approximately 3,000 job-seekers benefited from training and work placements/internships offered through the JSSP in 2012. Of those trainees who indicated their prior sector of employment, over 400 came from the construction sector.

EGF

A significant number of redundant construction workers have been assisted, under the aegis of my Department, through the completion of a programme of supports co-financed by the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund in 2012. The EGF programme targeted a cohort of redundant construction workers and apprentices across three specific sub-sectors of the construction industry who had been verifiably made redundant between 1 July 2009 and 31 March 2010. The sub-sectors covered by the programme were: construction of buildings; specialised construction services; and architectural and engineering services. The EGF programme ran from 1st July 2009 to 9th June 2012 and provided a range of co-financed guidance, training, education and enterprise measures. These included occupational guidance supports including tailored career planning courses provided by VECs; training courses and allowances administered by FÁS including on and off the job apprenticeship supports to allow those apprentices made redundant to progress their apprenticeships while unemployed; further and higher education courses delivered by the VECs and HEA-funded institutions; and entrepreneurial guidance and supports provided by the City and County Enterprise Boards for those clients interested in becoming self-employed.

The programme also provided for the awarding of EGF Training Grants where a required training or education measure could not be delivered by a public institution but was available to the client through the private sector. In total almost 11,000 separate interventions were provided to a total EGF eligible cohort of just over 8,000 redundant construction workers and apprentices in the relevant implementation period.