Tuesday 28 March 2017

Plunging apprentice numbers threaten the future of trades

John Walshe Education Editor

THE collapse in apprentice numbers will lead to a shortage of plumbers, carpenters and electricians in a few years' time.

New figures, obtained by the Irish Independent, show that last month only 83 new apprentices were registered across all the FAS-designated trades, a dramatic decline on the 483 registered in January 2008.

Drop

Twelve trades did not register a single apprentice between them last month, including plastering, brick and stonelaying, electronic security systems, sheet metalworking and print media.

The construction trades suffered a massive drop, with new registrations for January down 90pc, from 162 two years ago to just 17 this year. Carpentry and joinery were down from 79 registrations two years ago to 14 last year, and to seven this year. Plumbing was down from 56 in January 2006 to 15 the following January and to only six last month.

The electrical trades were down 83pc, from an intake of 195 in January 2008 to 33 last month, while the engineering trades were down 77pc, from 53 to 12. The motor trade was down from 70 new registrations in January 2008 to 21 last month.

Registrations will continue until the end of the year, but the annual intake over the 12-month period is expected to come in below last year's 1,535 across all trades, and way below the record 8,318 in 2006.

Industry sources fear that the collapse will cause problems in a few years if there is a big upswing in the economy.

Apprentices normally take four years to complete a seven- phase training programme. Two phases are taken in institutes of technology or further education colleges. The dramatic drop in new registrations is having major repercussions in these 14 educational institutions, with implications for staff.

Redeployed

Talks are taking place that could mean the redeployment of around 100 staff in the institutes who are currently involved in teaching apprentices. Some can be redeployed fairly easily but others will need retraining.

A working group comprising the Higher Education Authority (HEA), FAS and government departments was set up to plan for the changed circumstances. Talks between officials of the HEA and FAS continued to finalise arrangements yesterday.

Irish Independent

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