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Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science | Requirements of apprenticeships or higher education qualifications for the construction sector

To ask the Minister for Further and Higher Education; Research; Innovation and Science the extent to which he and his Department have identified particular requirements in terms of apprenticeships or higher qualifications in education throughout the country to meet such requirements in the short-term with particular reference to the construction sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


Apprenticeships are employer led demand-driven educational and training programmes that aim to develop the skills of an apprentice in order to meet the needs of industry and the labour market. As apprentices are employees the demand for and number of apprentices is primarily dictated by the employer base in any area or sector.

There has been a marked increase in craft apprentice registrations over the past 4 years. In 2022, there were 8,286 total apprenticeship registrations – somewhat down on the 2021 high of 8,607 but an increase of 34% on the 2019 figures, the last pre-pandemic year. Of the registrations last year, 5,628 registrations (68%) were in construction and construction-related programmes.

Regarding apprenticeship uptake, we are making significant progress in realising the ambition of the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025. A key objective is to make apprenticeship more attractive to employers and learners, to ensure their continued and increased engagement across all programmes. The actions set out in the plan seek to deliver on a target of 10,000 apprenticeship registrations per annum by 2025 across all sectors of the economy.

Progress to date includes:

  • The establishment of the National Apprenticeship Office (NAO) and the National Apprenticeship Alliance (NAA), in a reform of apprenticeship governance structures;
  • The establishment of the NAA’s Equity and Inclusion subcommittee, to help make apprenticeship more reflective of the national population;
  • The removal of legislative barriers to the development of apprenticeship programmes in professions, through the Higher Education Authority Act, 2023;
  • Securing resources for access measures, including a bursary programme for under-represented groups;
  • The introduction of a gender bursary grant of €2,666;
  • The allocation of €17.2m in additional capital investment for SOLAS and the HEA, building on the €20 million Apprenticeship Capital Fund investment in 2021;
  • The inclusion of apprenticeship options on the CAO website from November 2021.

Due to these measures and other supports aimed at simplifying the process for employers, there are currently almost 9,000 employers and 26,000 apprentices.

The increased diversity of new apprenticeships, many of which have off-the-job training delivered through online or blended learning, provides a significant opportunity for widening of access to apprenticeship for rural businesses and learners. In addition, Education and Training Boards, Institutes of Technology, and Technological Universities are spread throughout the country and play a very important role in ensuring apprenticeship provision has a strong regional dimension.

In December 2022, my Department published the Report on the Analysis of Skills for Residential Construction & Retrofitting 2023–2030 and the corresponding action plan. The Report identifies the construction skills needs from the further education and training and higher education sector to meet housing and retrofitting targets outlined in Housing for All and the National Retrofit Plan.

The Report indicates a need for 50,831 new entrants into the construction sector, from professional, craft, operative and other trade route. Three different forecasts are presented in the report for the period 2023-2030:

1. the skills required to build an average of 33,000 houses annually;
2. the skills required to retrofit 446,300 houses;
3. the skills required for the general repair and maintenance of the housing stock.  

As well as international sources, the Report notes four potential domestic sources of the supply of professional, technical, skilled and semi-skilled construction workers:

1. universities and technological universities;
2. the apprenticeship system;
3. the construction skills certification scheme (CSCS);
4. an extensive range of relatively short vocational training courses.

There are two international sources of skills supply:

1.  skilled workers employed in the construction industry who have come from another EEA country;
2.  skilled workers outside of the EEA who have availed of the work permit scheme.

A Government priority is to ensure that we have world-leading skills in the economy to ensure a sustainable and equitable economy in the future. We recognise the changes in the construction sector, the response needed to support innovation, and the need for targeted, collaborative and industry- focused opportunities across the tertiary education and training system.  This Department is putting in place reporting and monitoring arrangements so that the projections outlined in the report are kept under review, and the appropriate education and training responses are delivered.

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