To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to address labour shortages in the construction sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government is closely monitoring all aspects of construction skills and labour supply, through the national skills database and through the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the National Skills Council and the Regional Skills Fora. The EGFSN is currently tendering for a skills demand study to determine the demand and nature of the Irish Construction sector’s skills needs in the period to 2030. A Construction Sector Working Group has also been established to ensure regular and open dialogue between Government and the construction sector in relation to issues that may impact on the successful delivery of the National Development Plan (NDP) on a value-for-money basis for the State. Part of the Group's remit is to consider the supply of necessary skills and enhancing the capacity of the sector to meet infrastructural priorities over the next decade.
As a demand driven programme, the number of apprenticeship placements is determined by employers within the construction sector. In recent years, annual intake in construction related apprenticeships has steadily been increasing, from a low level of just 650 in 2010 to 3,398 in 2018. As of end November there were 3,300 new registrations on construction related apprenticeships, and these are forecast to increase further up to 2022. The range of apprenticeships on offer is also being expanded to meet the identified skill needs of the sector. Arising from the Apprenticeship Council’s two calls for apprenticeship proposals, an apprenticeship in Engineering Services Management was rolled out in 2019. Apprenticeships in scaffolding, quantity surveyor and roofing and cladding scaffolding and senior quantity surveyor apprenticeship are currently being developed into national apprenticeship programmes.
Construction skills are also being targeted through Higher Education programmes, including Springboard, and through further education and training programmes. In the area of Construction, there are 14 courses under Springboard+ 2019, providing for 374 places. To date 272 participants have enrolled in or accepted places on these courses. It is expected that this number will rise in the New Year as some of the approved course in the construction sector will not begin until the spring and others may have a second intake of students.
In terms of upskilling the existing workforce, initiatives include the establishment of a dedicated NZEB Training centre in Wexford which is currently providing 10 NZEB training programmes to existing construction workers in areas such as plumbing, electrical, bricklaying, carpentry and plastering. As of the end of October 2019, 322 people received NZEB training. In November 2019 the Skillnet Ireland board approved the awarding of funding to a new Skillnet named the Construction Professional Skillnet which will be promoted by the Construction Industry Federation. This network will seek to improve competitiveness of the industry through upskilling the workforce, and create talent pipelines by developing resilience, core competencies and accessible progression opportunities to a predominantly young workforce.
The most recent review of the employment permits occupations lists concluded on 12th July with 34 submissions of proposals for adjustments, 8 of which were from the construction sector including CIF. Among the construction industry submission job titles were Façade / Curtain Wall Designer and Building Information Modelling Specialists – BIM Manager / BIM Technicians (Modeler). A submission is due to be brought to Minister Humphreys before the end of the year.
All Parlamientary Questions I make and their answers can be viewed in this section