Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (406)

Cian O'Callaghan


406. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the action he is taking to increase apprenticeships and expand the base of skilled construction workers to ensure that there will be a sufficient construction workforce to meet the need to construct at least 33,000 homes per year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2780/21]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Education and training relevant to skills needs in the construction sector is delivered through ongoing apprenticeship and non-apprenticeship further and higher education and training as well as through specific activation programmes such as Springboard, the Human Capital Initiative and Skillnet Ireland.

Government has moved to ameliorate the impacts of Covid-19 on the continued skills pipeline. Measures include the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme which provides an employer grant of €3,000 payable over two years to support employers who take on and retain apprentices. Initially funded through the July Jobs Stimulus, the payment has been extended to include employers who take on apprentices until mid-2021.

Under the July Jobs Stimulus €500,000 was also allocated to support the expansion of skills development for the National Retrofitting Programme and 2,000 additional places were also funded across Springboard and the Human Capital Pillar 1. €8m has been allocated in 2021 to support retrofit specific skills which will provide for up to 500 places on new specialist retrofitting training courses targeted towards unemployed persons in addition to the expected increase of 400 places in programmes facilitating upskilling of experienced construction professionals. This will increase the number of learners in retrofit specific programmes to over 1,500 per annum. A retrofitting centre of excellence is already in place under Waterford, Wexford Education and Training Board (ETB) while a further four ETBs are planning to have centres of excellence up and running in the first quarter of 2021.

1,493 places are being provided through 34 Springboard courses and 14 courses funded under Pillar 1 of the Human Capital Initiative (HCI) in construction related areas. Skillnet Ireland also supports the construction sector through two national Construction-specific Skillnet training networks, as well as through multiple regional Skillnet training networks that assist construction businesses located in their respective regions.

In further education and training, approximately 6,256 beneficiaries participated in SOLAS-funded construction related further education and training programmes provided by ETBs under the ‘Built Environment’ skills cluster in 2019. Construction traineeship programs also provide skills for the construction industry in areas such as Construction Skills for Employment; Construction Operative with Tickets and Overhead Lines Operative.

As a demand driven programme, the number of apprentice placements is determined by employers within the construction sector. In recent years, annual intake in construction related apprenticeships has steadily been increasing, from a low of 650 in 2010 to 3,499 in 2019. The impact of Covid-19 and the closure of the construction sector in March 2020 impacted heavily on apprentice registrations in the first half of 2020. Registrations recovered in the second half of the year with the support of the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme, reaching a total of 3,104 registrations on construction related apprenticeships by year end.

Among the 59 apprenticeships currently available at levels 5-10 on the National Framework of qualifications, the 25 traditional craft apprenticeships at level 6 of the National Framework of Qualifications have been supplemented by new apprenticeships in geo-drilling (Level 6), with programmes in scaffolding (level 5), roofing and cladding (level 5) and advanced quantity surveying (Level 9) due to launch in 2021. In accordance with the Programme for Government, a new Action Plan for Apprenticeship is in development to cover the period 2021-2025. It will set out new ways of structuring, funding, and promoting apprenticeships with a target of 10,000 apprenticeship registrations per annum by 2025 and is expected to be delivered shortly.