A Laois TD says that the government needs to incentivise more young people to take up apprenticeships if the economy is to recover following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sinn Fein’s Brian Stanley says that in order to build the number of houses required, far more people need to be employed in that sector.
He said: “A national recovery plan is important, and I want to focus on the training and apprentice element. I want to raise the importance of training and proper apprenticeships, as we attempt to recover and emerge from the pandemic.
“We are in a housing crisis and it will only get more demanding. It will require an army of workers and hundreds of thousands of homes must also be retrofitted. However, there is a shortage of construction skills.
“Even if we are to meet the modest social housing targets set by the Government in the recovery plan, along with the need in the private construction sector.
“This was highlighted in the recent TASC report on construction. It is a reality in Laois-Offaly that the skilled people to carry out the work required are not available.
“Therefore, the Government must encourage more young people to enter apprenticeships that can help us rebuild our economy, build houses, and do the retrofitting that is needed.
“Not everyone has to or wants to go to third level. What is important however, is that the Government enforces strong terms and conditions for apprenticeships.
“I am hearing reports that a practice has developed where young workers are being exploited on bogus apprenticeships.
“They are used as cheap labour and then let go one, two or three years after they are taken on, with new apprentices hired, in their place.
“There must be a proper training element, with new workers fully qualifying after four years. Ministers Varadkar and Harris, must clamp down on this practice if we are to see young people attracted to the sector.”
The TASC report also highlighted that there are substantial levels of bogus self-employment in the construction sector.
Bogus self-employment arises where employers wrongly misclassify workers as self-employed rather than direct employees.
This results in labour cost savings of up to 30% for the employer and a loss to the PRSI-based Social Insurance Fund, as well as creating a significant competitive advantage over ‘compliant’ companies – something the Sinn Fein TD wants to see eradicated.
He said: “The TASC report also highlighted that there are substantial levels of bogus self-employment in the construction sector.
“This is supported by the evidence we gathered recently on the Committee of Public Accounts, and gathered by Revenue, which highlights a high prevalence of bogus self-employment.
“If we want people to work in construction, they must be paid a fair wage and be guaranteed decent terms and conditions.
“Sectoral agreed rates of pay for trades and general operatives must be applied on all sides, especially on projects funded out of the public purse by the taxpayer.
“My party, Sinn Féin, wants to get people back into good quality work with proper terms and conditions, and ensure they have a living wage.’’