Pandemic not sufficient excuse for training backlog, claims McNamara
YOUNG Clare apprentices are being told their four-year training programme will now take six years to complete due to chronic backlogs, a local deputy has claimed.
Deputy Michael McNamara estimates up to 3,500 craft plumbing and electrical apprenticeships are being delayed throughout the country.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Deputy McNamara said he didn’t doubt the difficulties Covid-19 caused for vocational training in education and training boards, ETBs, and colleges across the State. However, he doesn’t believe that those difficulties are a sufficient excuse.
“We need these workers to be trained and to enter the workforce. We also need to ensure they realise how valued they are, because 5,500 trainees left apprenticeships over the past five years.
“I do not know why this happened. I am not saying all of it was because of delays or even any of it was necessarily because of delays.
“However, I know many of my young constituents in County Clare are very frustrated by the delays because they cannot move on to the next level, which has repercussions for how much they can earn, when they are going to earn properly and, they hope, get a house and support a family.
“The Government recently announced an ambitious Housing for All plan, but its success is predicated on being able to attract new construction workers,” the Independent TD noted.
“Around 27,000 are required, according to some estimates. Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, has stated that we need 27,000 new construction workers to carry out retrofitting across the State. Where are they all going to come from?
“SOLAS announced funding recently and stated that the backlog would be cleared. What does it mean that the backlog will be cleared? Does it mean the backlog of getting new apprentices into the system will be cleared?
“Currently, there are apprentices who started a four-year apprenticeship and are now being told it will take them six years to complete it,” he stated.
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin admitted there is a waiting list for craft apprentice off-the-job training in electrical, plumbing, carpentry and joinery, while the apprentice population also doubled over the past four years.
At the end of August, there were about 18,733 registered craft apprentices, with 9,743 waiting for a period in respect phases two, four or six of their seven-phase apprenticeships.
Employers approved by SOLAS to employ apprentices are eligible for a €3,000 grant for each new apprentice registered under the apprenticeship incentivisation scheme.
Between March 2020 and August 2021, in excess of €10 million was sanctioned for payment under this initiative, supporting almost 2,000 employers to employ more than 3,500 apprentices.
Phase Two training continued throughout the summer, with 780 apprentices starting their training in July and August. Phase 2 is scheduled on an ongoing basis. More classes are being scheduled at present.
Mr Martin outlined SOLAS has confirmed apprentices whose training has been affected by the impact of Covid will be offered places for phases two, four and six of their programmes, which consist of off-the-job training.
More than 4,800 apprentices currently on a waiting list for off-the-job or workshop-based training are now on track to commence their training by the end of 2021. This represents 40% of those currently waiting.
One hundred percent will be returned to workshop-based training in 2022. Deputy Martin stressed the government fully accepts the vital importance of getting these apprentices back into their programmes as quickly as possible.
Those who are waiting the longest will be prioritised.
by Dan Danaher