Lowest number of newly-qualified tradespeople in four years undermines housing and retrofit targets - Rose Conway-Walsh TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has again challenged the government’s handling of the apprenticeship system.
After raising the issue in the Dáíl and at the Education Committee, Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“2021 saw only 1,798 apprentices become fully-qualified tradespeople. That is close to 600 fewer than in 2020, and represents the lowest number of newly-qualified tradespeople since 2017.
“This is not the result of a lack of interest by young people in taking up apprenticeships. Or a lack of demand from the construction sector. This is being caused by a lack of capacity in the off-site classroom training that each apprentice needs to progress.
“This issue has been coming down the line for a long time. Covid had a severe impact but it is important to recognise a lack of capacity pre-dates the pandemic.
“I have been raising this issue repeatedly for over a year. Despite this it took the government until August 2021 to get any kind of plan in place. Since then, we have seen virtually no improvement despite covid restrictions being lifted for education in September.
“It is a positive that apprenticeship registrations are up because of growth in the construction sector. However, we are risking higher drop-out rates and frustration from apprentices if they are not able to complete their apprenticeship within the allocated four years.
“I have serious concerns that the resources have simply not been provided. The state saved €55million, mostly from apprentice allowances, but reinvested just €37million back in.
“Apprentices have simply not been treated with the same consideration and importance as other third-level students.
“Instead, the Minister is actually using the mismanagement of the system as a justification for reforming the traditional craft apprenticeship model with an industry-led approach that will allow the state to take an even more hands-off approach.
“Sinn Féin would value and invest in our apprenticeship system to release its full potential and deliver on housing, retrofitting and other infrastructure needs."