More than 1,000 registering for apprenticeships over past three years have dropped out, Dáil told

Crisis in system as bricklaying, plumbing and carpentry apprentices taking two years longer to finish training, say Sinn Féin

More than 1,000 of those registering for apprenticeships in areas such as bricklaying and carpentry over the past three years have dropped out, the Dáil has heard.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said there was a crisis in the system and it was taking bricklaying, plumbing and carpentry apprentices up to two years longer to complete their training because of the lack of “off the job” or academic training. A total of 9,000 construction trainees were waiting to complete their training, he said.

In the last three years more than 1,000 or one in six have dropped out, he added.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions he said one apprentice had told Sinn Féin he was waiting 21 months to go into phase four of his training. “He told us that ‘most of the work I do is the same as a qualified fitter. But he can earn double while I struggle day by day just to get by’.” Apprentices earn less while waiting to complete their academic training.


Another trainee was waiting 18 months to get “off the job” phase-two training “and this fellow has three children to support”. He added that many others were waiting two years for this training.

These were people who wanted to make their contribution to addressing the housing crisis, “but because this Government took their eye off the ball” it was taking far longer for them to get qualified.

He said “if somebody was doing a law degree for four years and it ended up taking them six years or more it would be unacceptable. If we told a teacher that your four-year course now was six years or 6½ years, it would be unacceptable.

“But why is it acceptable for plumbers? Why is it acceptable for plumbers, for bricklayers, for carpenters, because that’s what’s happening under your Government” he told Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin said the State has the highest construction output across the EU and “you don’t get those figures deputy if you don’t have apprentices coming through”.

He insisted “nobody has taken their eye off the ball in respect to apprenticeships”, and eliminating the number of apprentices waiting six months or longer for their off-the-job training, predominantly phase two, “has been an area of unrelenting focus”.

The Tánaiste added that a taskforce of all the stakeholders had developed a sectoral plan to address the backlog.

This had been reduced by the end of March to 3,347 apprentices in phase two of their training, 95 in phase four and 18 in phase six.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times