Further and Higher Education; Research; Innovation and Science | Staff shortages in construction sector
To ask the Minister for Further and Higher Education; Research; Innovation and Science the extent to which efforts continues to be made to meet staff shortages throughout the construction sector with particular reference to housebuilding; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
My Department is working with colleagues in SOLAS, the HEA and other Departments to respond to projections of skills needs in the construction sector and to increase skills supply through the current network of tertiary skills provision.
We are increasing the number of apprentices we train and the CAO offering has been changed to ensure that school leavers are aware of all of their options after school. In recent years, annual intake in construction-related apprenticeships has steadily been increasing, from a low of 650 in 2010 rising to a record 5,443 new apprentices registered in construction related programmes in 2021. As of November 2022 (the latest full month figures available), there have been 4,418 registrations on the 14 construction apprenticeship programmes and 782 registrations on the 14 construction-related apprenticeship programmes.
It is important to acknowledge the other skills routes for construction. Other options are available for workers, so that the sector can fully utilise available expertise. For example, a new Level 3 course was launched this week which enables candidates without previous skills in construction to start a career in the sector.
In addition, the Construction Industry Federation and SOLAS are working together to provide transition year students the opportunity to obtain a Safe Pass card. This card is granted following the completion of safety awareness training and enables students to have on-site visits and undertake work experience. And now Safe Pass holders can renew their card online. This will allow experienced skilled workers to spend more time on-site, therefore improving productivity. Education and training remain the cornerstones to providing supply to the industry.
Research into demand for skills and professions linked to construction has been conducted and will be published shortly. It contains several recommendations and there is a corresponding tertiary response plan.
With the Government’s commitments to ‘Housing for All’ and the several educational and vocational initiatives provided by this Department and partners, there are clear pathways to a career in construction, which will help to promote the sector. A working group has been established to develop an action plan to deliver on this, which will further help to highlight all of the opportunities that are available in the sector.
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