IT IS seen as one of the best employers in the county, so much so that 435 people applied for just 14 apprenticeships.
The huge response to Liebherr's latest apprenticeship recruitment drive is nothing new for the German-owned crane manufacturing factory.
It employs 640 people at its Co Kerry plant in Fossa outside Killarney.
Two years ago it received 600 applications for a similar number of places but, since the economic downturn, has received at least 250 applications each year from people wanting to become fully qualified electricians, welders and fitters.
"It has been climbing for the last four years and has especially increased since the recession kicked in.
"We have a minimum of between 250 and 300 applications every year," said Pat O'Leary, managing director of Liebherr.
Most of the applications for the four-year apprenticeships are from school leavers, both in Kerry and other places around the country, anxious to secure employment at home.
The company's Killarney manufacturing plant was founded by German industrialist Hans Liebherr in the late 1950s after he fell in love with the area and wanted to establish part of his business interests there.
The Liebherr family also owns the nearby five-star Europe Hotel and Dunloe Castle, also near Killarney and the recently refurbished Ard na Sidhe near Killorglin.
It is currently in the process of completing a new €30m expansion of its facilities at its Fossa plant that include a new production hall and office block.
By Majella O'Sullivan