Underinvestment in trade apprenticeships will have wide ramifications – Rose Conway-Walsh TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has criticised the government’s treatment of apprenticeships in 2021 and warned that this could have serious implications for the housing in the future.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“While under investment in apprenticeships pre-dates Covid, the pandemic has had a severe impact on the apprenticeship system. After the upheaval of 2020, this year was a hugely important year in terms of getting the system back up and functioning at a sufficient capacity.
“Information released to me by the Department shows the government have actually saved €55million from the waiting lists. This is due to not having to pay as many trade apprentice allowances for their time spent off-site learning in college.
“Despite this, the government has only invested €32million back in to address waiting lists since the beginning of the pandemic, meaning they have a net saving of €23million.
“Currently, 8,181 apprentices are waiting for assignment to off-the-job training. That represents almost half of all trade apprentices, unable to advance or complete their apprenticeship. While that is down from a peak of 12,000 in August it is higher than at the start of the year.
“We have longstanding skill shortages in the construction sector. The failure to address the backlog in training tradespeople will have real impact on the supply of skills we need to deliver housing and retrofit targets.
“The government has still not come forward with any real plan or timeframe for clearing the backlog. Meanwhile we have 4-year apprenticeships taking 5 or 6 years to complete. Far from making the necessary investment to ramp up capacity, the government is not even re-investing the savings that they have made from the backlog.
“Instead of taking responsibility, the Minister for State Niall Collins is using the backlog as a justification to help push through unpopular reforms of the traditional apprenticeship model. The claim is that Covid has ‘highlighted limitations’ of the current model. This is completely disingenuous.
“These planned reforms that have been labelled by Connect trade union as ‘essentially privatisation of the service’. The reforms aim to move to a decentralised model that will give far greater control to the private sector and provide less government oversight.
“Sinn Féin would value our apprenticeship system and invest accordingly to build on the excellent model we have.”