By Feargal de Buitleir, Dublin SY
THE LAST few months have seen the hopes of thousands of young people shattered as a collapsing construction industry casts its unwanted apprentices aside. Not only are the chances of finding work in Ireland very slim but without having finished their time, apprentices are unable to emigrate in the hope of finding work abroad.
As it stands, 3,600 apprentices are officially recorded as having been made redundant. Add to this the numbers leaving their off-the-job phases in college with no work to return to and many more, including 60 apprentices in SR Technics, and you get an idea of the scale and urgency of this crisis.
Fás and the government have made much of their efforts to facilitate the completion of apprenticeships. However, a glance at the figures quoted show the total inadequacy of their response. As of January a scheme has been in place to help redundant apprentices progress to the next phase of their training by paying employers €340 a week to take them on for a temporary placement. There is only provision for 500 apprentices in this scheme which will end in December.
The announcement by the ESB in February that they would facilitate 400 electrical apprentices brought a glimmer of hope to some, but the fact that there are already 800 unemployed apprentice electricians means that it falls far short of what is needed.
Apprentices need to get organised to demand that the state lives up to its responsibility to them.
Every apprentice who has started their training has the right to finish it.
Fás must abandon its market-driven approach and seriously tackle the problems facing apprentices. Replace “Service to Business” with “Service to Apprentices”.
No to the replacement of experienced apprentices with cheaper recruits. No company who has laid off an apprentice to receive any grants or subsidies for replacement apprentices.
For the provision by the state of the necessary employment to see redundant apprentices through their on-the-job phases.