Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (649)

Alan Farrell


649. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science his plans to reskill and retrain workers in the area of climate change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37968/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The upskilling and reskilling of workers in the area of climate change is delivered across the tertiary education sector.

The Programme for Government has set highly-ambitious targets in relation to climate change including actions under the Climate Action Plan to retrofit 500,000 homes and install 400,000 heat pumps in existing homes over the next 10 years to reduce carbon emissions and make homes more comfortable.

A dedicated Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) training centre has been established in Wexford and is currently providing programmes to construction workers in areas such as plumbing, electrical, bricklaying, carpentry and plastering. Funding under the Skills to Advance Innovation Fund is being used to develop new delivery modes and enhance training capacity to facilitate the wider national delivery of these programmes. Work is also ongoing on the delivery of train-the-trainer programmes to ensure that the construction sector is appropriately positioned to expand to meet expected demand for programmes.

Retrofit skills training is currently provided by Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board and the Laois Offaly Education and Training Board. 5 Retrofit Centres of Excellence are being developed and are expected to be operational in 2021. It is anticipated that in 2020, 620 individuals will complete training courses in retrofit skills, including Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) skills and this number is expected to double in 2021.

As part of the July Stimulus, the Government allocated €500,000 to expand skills development infrastructure in preparation for the significant increase in reskilling required to deliver the National Retrofitting Programme. Budget 2021 provided for an additional 500 places on 10 week retrofitting courses in addition to the expected increase for existing short courses.

Over 15,000 places on Springboard+ and Human Capital Initiative Pillar 1 graduate conversion courses were announced in July, and a further 2,000 places were provided as a direct response to the skills needs arising from Covid-19 under the July Stimulus. These courses include areas such as Near Zero Energy Buildings, wind energy, solar energy, and sustainable energy systems. The July Stimulus also provided for over 2,000 free or subsidised full and part time postgraduate places on a range of existing courses in 23 public and private higher education institutions. The places are available on courses in a wide range of skills areas, including Environmental Sciences, sustainable energy.

Also funded under the July Stimulus are a range of modular courses which are short and focused and will be offered in a flexible manner, allowing people to gain important skills without taking a considerable period away from the labour market. Each module will be stand-alone so that participants can gain skills and put them into practice immediately in the workplace, but modules are also accredited in such a way as to provide building blocks to a full qualification should the student so wish. These 538 modular courses across a broad range of subjects in 32 higher education institutions, represent a new route into lifelong learning, and provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities for those who need it, while ensuring that they remain close to the labour market. They include courses in renewable energy, NZEB policy and techniques, and BIM.

In addition, Green Tech Skillnet, funded by Skillnet Ireland through the National Training Fund and promoted by the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), provides training for enterprises in the renewable energy and green technology sectors. Member companies work collaboratively to share best practice and to respond effectively to the specific skills needs of the sector. The network addresses both technical and non-technical skills needs of members. Skillnet Ireland will also be rolling out a new climate action upskilling scheme in 2021.