Thursday 18 January 2018

We turn our noses up at apprenticeships and it's costing the economy millions - Engineer on tradespeople shortage

Cllr John McCartin says a lacked of skilled trade workers is costing his business
Cllr John McCartin says a lacked of skilled trade workers is costing his business

Kathy Armstrong

Tradespeople are being forced to turn down millions of euro worth of work every year because we don't have enough skilled labour workers, a business owner has claimed.

John McCartin, Managing Director of Newtowngore Engineering in Co Leitrim, said that we "look down our noses at apprenticeships" and our economy is paying the price.

Mr McCartin, who is a Fine Gael Councillor, said that his business currently has 15 jobs available that they can't fill.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said: "The labour force in this country is lacking people who can work with their hands.

"If you're talking about trades like electronic engineers, steel fitters, detailers, there just aren't the qualified people out there and the experienced people out there to allow companies like our own and our competitors to take on the work we could take on and compete for.

"I live in a very sparsely populated area, it's the only part of western Europe where the population density is below 20 people per square kilometre.

Stock image
Stock image

"Within a ten mile radius of where I live I'd say there are hundreds of jobs worth millions of euro worth of work every year that will not be filled and done because of a lack of a skilled labour force.

"There's no real quick fix to it, you can't just invent a skilled labour force or an educated labour force or you can't invent people who have gone through apprenticeships at the drop of a hat."

He said that we need to reassess our attitudes towards technical education.

He said: "If we had people coming out of vocational education and going onto apprenticeships then people would have skills like mechanical engineering, electronical engineering, people who are good with their hands and then nobody would be out of work in this economy.

"We are looking down our noses at apprenticeships, there's no doubt about that.

"In countries like Germany they has always viewed technical instruction as part of the mainstream education and I guess that's part of why their economy has been so competitive and their manufactured goods are sen as premier goods all over the world.

"We're not competing for work that we could aggressively be chasing in our region because we know if we land a big fish we just don't have the workforce."

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Mr McCartin says a lack of construction workers is making us less competitive (Stock image)
Mr McCartin says a lack of construction workers is making us less competitive (Stock image)

Mr McCartin, who lives in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim said that Polish tradespeople were "a saviour" during the Celtic Tiger but that workforce just isn't available now.

He said: "In the previous boom we had in this country Poland was the saviour we had, a lot of people came from Poland with great skills but that seems to have dried up currently.

"I did speak to one guy who works for a recruitment agency who said that he would get me men, he said they may not be Polish but we might be able to recruit Romanian men.

"After a couple of weeks we contacted him again and he said he was really sorry and he was trying but he'd promised another company 20 men and all he could get was six...

"We are a sparsely populated island but we can do a lot more, we can employ a lot more and accommodate an awful lot more people, there's no reason why we can't do it."

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