I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 407 together.
Education and training related to retrofitting and broader construction sector skills is delivered across the full remit of Further and Higher Education (through apprenticeship; non-apprenticeship further education and training (FET) and Higher Education (HE)) and through mainstream education and training as well as through specific programmes such as Springboard, the Human Capital Initiative and Skillnet Ireland.
Among the 62 apprenticeships currently available, 25 are craft-related. More specifically, they include housing and retrofitting related programmes such as electrical, plumbing, carpentry and joinery, plastering, painting and decorating and the recently launched scaffolding apprenticeship. Curricula in existing apprenticeships are updated on an ongoing basis to keep pace with changes in industry practices and regulations.
In relation to a retrofit apprenticeship programme, it is worth noting that modelling in the EGFSN report ‘Skills for a Zero Carbon Economy’ regarding retrofit breaks down the labour and skills demand by retrofit job type. Insulation and airtightness works are the largest category, followed by cosmetic and repair works, such as plastering, painting, and replacing flooring, whilst other significant jobs include lighting and electrics, heating, and engineering and support services. Recognising the diversity of skills required for retrofit, it is considered that the current training options available offer a more agile way of meeting labour and skills needs, with several relevant apprenticeship programmes available in this regard.
General provision in areas such as green skills and sustainability, which includes retrofit and Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB), is ongoing across the FET sector, with some 50+ programmes already running across the sector. NZEB skills training comprising one to four days of training is largely targeted to existing construction professionals. Ongoing innovation in delivery includes a move to a blended model of training in addition to the development of a pilot VR programme which is expected to be operational by year end.
At non-craft operative level there is a Skills to Advance programme in Thermal Insulation Installation. Follow-on modules in Ventilation and Air Tightness will be offered to all participants of the Thermal Insulation Programme.
SOLAS’s Green Skills for FET Roadmap 2021-2030 will build on this progress when it is launched 23rd March. It will set out the FET requirements to meet the Climate Action Plan 2021, Skills for Zero Carbon 2021, and similar government policies/plans. It incorporates the National Recovery and Resilience Plan Green Skills Action Programme which began in 2021. The NRRP has committed €29M to NZEB & Retrofit upskilling and reskilling programmes and €10M to Green Skills Modules. Under the Plan, 4,550 retrofit and NZEB standard places and 60,000 green skills places are to be provided by the end of 2022.
In the Higher Education sector, supplementing core education delivery, funding is provided under Springboard and the Human Capital Initiative to incentivise the delivery of programmes which support the development of professionals in areas such as building analysis and climate adaptation; sustainable building technology and retrofit, conservation and sustainability.