Just seven plasterers, eight painter decorators and fewer than 30 new bricklayers will enter the jobs market as newly-qualified professionals in 2018, sparking fears of a crisis in the construction trade.

Even if the construction sector takes off as expected in the next 18 months, there will simply not be enough young Irish tradesmen and women who can plaster walls, lay bricks or paint a house to take on new jobs, according to the Construction Industry Federation.

Worrying new figures show just 1 853 people registered for apprenticeships in 27 trades across five industrial sectors - construction, electrical, motor, engineering and printing in 2014. These include 670 trainee electricians, 259 plumbing apprentices and just over 130 carpentry and joinery trainees.

But, with current apprenticeships generally lasting four years, it will be 2018 before the trainees can work as fully-trained professionals.

Member of Irish Parliament Michael Fitzmaurice will present the government with a strategy document in February to tackle the trades crisis. He says: ‘We've lost a whole range of different skills, trades and crafts in recent years. I'm trying to coordinate different sides that will detail where the shortages are - especially in construction. The country is crying out for houses but a lot of our skill base is gone.’

Despite increased demand for Irish bricklayers and tilers in Australia and Canada, emigration is only part of the problem, he claims. He believes the government needs to promote more non-academic education, expand the range of apprenticeships, learn from European models and look back to older Irish training and employment schemes from the 1970s and 80s.

‘Since the Celtic Tiger we have decided that everyone should go to college, so from around 2005 everyone spent three or four years in college and then emigrated and we thought we'd never need a person to use a grader in road construction or drive a crane, or lay a pipe, or a plasterer or a bricklayer or a roofer ever again. We can't have everyone becoming nurses, doctors and lawyers. We need other skills and there may be people gifted with their hands and we need to encourage that and give them facilities in different parts of the country,’ he said.

He added that Germany has learned this lesson, offering more than 300 recognised trades where staff start as apprentices.

‘We are losing basic skills by the day because of retirement and lack of interest from younger generations.’

[adapted from an article by Claire McCormack, Sunday Independent, 4 January  2015]

More information:

Not enough bricklayers to build new houses [Original article]


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