Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Department of Education and Skills
687. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of the predicted 30,000 registered apprentice positions to be created in the next five years that will go towards retrofitting to meet a potentially more ambitious national retrofitting plan due to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52590/21]
688. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the measures in budget 2022 that will go towards setting up apprenticeships for retrofitting in the new action plan for apprenticeships with a target of 10,000 new apprenticeship registrations per annum by 2025 given the fact that the National Development Plan, the Housing for All plan and the new upcoming national retrofitting plan will require up to 80,000 new construction workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52591/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 687 and 688 together.
Education and training relevant to skills needs in the construction sector is delivered across the full remit of Further and Higher Education (through apprenticeship; non-apprenticeship further education and training (FET) and Higher Education (HE)) and through main stream education and training as well as through specific programmes such as Springboard, the Human Capital Initiative and Skillnet Ireland.
Under Budget 2022, I have allocated over €122 Million to support the development of skills across all sectors of the economy. A large proportion of that funding has gone towards the development and promotion of apprenticeships and ensure that the targets are met for the Action Plan for Apprenticeship
As the Deputy is aware, the development and promotion of apprenticeship is a significant Government priority in responding to key skill needs across the economy. These requirements are identified through work carried out to project workforce and skill needs in key economic sectors. In particular, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) plays a crucial role in analysing future skill needs in areas such as construction to meet housing and climate action targets.
A key objective of the Government's Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025 is to ensure that the apprenticeship system is equipped to meet these skills and human capital requirements as well as those arising from the accelerating pace of green and digital transformation. The Plan is intended to drive the future development of apprenticeship to increase its attractiveness to employers in meeting their workforce requirements.
In considering the important role played by apprenticeship in responding to these needs, it should be noted that apprenticeship is an employer-led offering. The number of apprentices in any specific sector is, therefore, determined directly by employer demand. The Plan is thus designed to deliver a flexible and responsive apprenticeship system which is attractive and easy to engage with for employers and potential apprentices, and which delivers high standards and sought-after qualifications. €34 million has been allocated to support and develop apprenticeship including €17 million to address the backlogs in delivery caused by COVID-19.
There is no specific apprenticeship in retrofit at the current time. Retrofit activity covers a range of tasks and professions including craft trades and operative level occupations in the construction sector. Among the 62 apprenticeships available at levels 5-10 of the National Framework of qualifications current apprenticeships which would deliver skills suitable to retrofit activity include plumbing, carpentry and joinery, plastering and painting and decorating and the recently launched scaffolding apprenticeship. Apprenticeships in roofing and cladding and advanced quantity surveyor (L9) are currently in development. Additionally, curricula in apprenticeships are updated on an ongoing basis to keep pace with changes in industry practices and regulations.
In responding to the high level of demand for apprenticeship in the construction sector, progress is evident through the launch of apprenticeships in scaffolding and roofing and cladding this year. An advanced quantity surveyor apprenticeship is also in development. Moreover, 2,782 of 4,363 applications to receive €3,000 per apprentice under the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme, were in construction trades as of the 4th October, representing 4,334 construction-related apprentices entering the sector.
Should there be a skill need for a Retrofit-specific apprenticeship, the development of new apprenticeships is employer-led, with consortia comprising employer groups and educational providers can come together to identify a skills need and appropriate apprenticeship response in their sector. The Apprenticeship Council examine any proposals arising in the context of identified skills needs. All apprenticeship proposals go through a rigorous evaluation process which is led by the Council, and approval is subject to the application meeting a prescribed set of requirements as set out in the publicly accessible handbook and guidance document
Additionally, under Budget 2022, it has been recognised that the continued upskilling and re-skilling of construction professionals, whether these are professionals, craft or non-craft operatives in Construction and Green Skills is paramount for the delivery of skills under Housing for All, Project Ireland 2040 and general construction sector projects. General provision in areas such as green skills and sustainability, which includes retrofit and NZEB, is ongoing across the FET sector, with some 50+ programmes already running across the sector. NZEB skills training is largely targeted to existing construction professionals. The majority of courses are three days in duration and are validated by City and Guilds. WWETB is developing a blended model with 2 days online with one day in the training centre. WWETB have also commissioned the development of a pilot VR programme for retrofit which is expected to be operational by year end.
€78 million for reskilling and upskilling including a €22 million Further Education Green Skills Action programme has been provided under Budget 2022 to ensure that the necessary skills are in place to equip the current and future workforce with the adequate skills for the delivery of critical infrastructure.
In conclusion, I am satisfied, that the Budget 2022 package, the range of actions envisaged under the Apprenticeship Action Plan and the wider skills response across the tertiary education system will help ensure that priority skill needs in our economy in the years ahead will be met.