SIPTU representatives have today (Wednesday, 16th May) insisted that employers in the construction industry must play a greater role to support the training of apprentices and semi-skilled workers. Speaking in response to the Construction Industry Federation’s (CIF) call for changes to the apprenticeship system, SIPTU TEAC Divisional Organiser, Greg Ennis, said: “There is no doubt that the number of construction apprenticeships must increase but there can be no dilution of the training process. The call to reduce the period centre-based training from 22 weeks needs to be considered very carefully. The construction industry must also reflect on the long-term impact on job quality and labour supply arising from sub-contracting practices.”  SIPTU Economist, Marie Sherlock said: “There is little doubt that there are major obstacles to the training of apprenticeships and the certification of general operatives in the construction sector in Ireland. Key structural features of the construction industry such as increased sub-contracting activity, little or no direct employment opportunities on any of the major construction sites and the widespread use of agency staff are significant factors that contribute to the growing shortage of craft and semi-skilled construction workers.” She added: “While most of the attention has focused on the need for apprentices, there is also a big problem for general operatives who want to gain certification. Most general operatives are now working for employment agencies. There is little or no employer provided training and little incentive for construction workers to pay for their own training when they have no certainty of employment or assurance that they will get the Sector Employment Order (SEO) wage rates.” “The reality is that the construction industry must recruit up to 80,000 workers to deliver the number of units needed to address the housing crisis. With the scourge of forced self-employment along with alternative employment options, in less physically intense sectors, with more consistently paid jobs, the construction sector will struggle to attract these workers in sufficient numbers.” “Inward migration can only be one part of the solution. If there is to be a meaningful increase in residential housing activity, we need a significant increase of domestically trained skilled construction workers. For this to be achieved, we need to see greater state supports for workplace skilling for general operatives and we need to explore changes to the existing model of construction apprenticeship provision.”