Donegal Sinn Féin Councillor Liam Doherty has called on the government to properly investment in the apprenticeship system here, adding that Fine Gael’s failure to do so to date has contributed to the current skills shortage which exists across a range of industries here and is stymieing economic growth in the county.

The Finn Valley based Councillor was commenting following the publication of figures this week which show the government missed its own apprenticeship targets last year, with just 590 people taking part in newly developed apprenticeship course, far short of the 1,500 promised.

Commenting on the disappointing numbers, Cllr Doherty said:

“For a third year in a row Fine Gael in Government has missed their own targets for expanding the apprenticeship system.

“Figures received by Sinn Féin this week from the Minister show that in 2018 just 590 people took part in newly developed apprenticeship courses across the state, not the 1,500 promised.

“In addition, the government has also failed to hit their own target of introducing 10 new programmes as set out in the Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeships.

“These figures are totally unacceptable and show a complete lack of effort and priority in this sector on the part of government, and this is having a major impact on the growing skills shortage which we can see across a whole range of industries.

“Tradespeople and skilled workers are crucial to any functioning economy, one only has to look at places such as Germany to see the worth attached to apprenticeships and where such workers are highly valued and respected.

 “In fact, such countries have a deep rooted tradition of developing vocational and craft training and this has resulted in the emergence of a local workforce who poses highly lucrative skills and trades.

“The failure by government here to prioritise and adequately expand apprenticeships here now means that there are a number of occupation where there are an insufficient number of people available to take up vacant positions, such as science, engineering, ICT, accounting, construction and hospitality.

“And this shortage can be seen here in our own county, particularly in construction and hospitality where many local firms are struggling to recruit, hire and retain staff.

“I’ve spoken with a number of local employers in Donegal and many report being unable to find suitably qualified plasterers, bricklayers, joiners, chefs and culinary professionals.

“At present, 37,300 people across the state who are aged between 15 and 24 are listed as unemployed so clearly there is potential there to tap into the energy, drive and abilities of those people through offering them a pathway to learn, gain valuable skills and work experience, while also earning and benefiting financially from a rewarding career.

“This is why I have tabled a motion scheduled for the next meeting of Donegal County Council at which I will be calling on the local authority to declare and acknowledge that it sees the importance and value of tradespeople and skilled workers to the local economy and calls on Government to provide the appropriate level of investment needed to expand and develop the apprenticeship system here.”

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