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The construction industry is of strategic importance to any economy, as it delivers the building and infrastructural needs of society; it is also a major provider of employment. The over-reliance on construction was a contributing factor to the collapse of the Irish economy and employment in construction fell to under 50% of its 2007 peak as a consequence. The decline devastated apprentice training with a reduction in excess of 90% of new registrations of construction apprentices at the lowest point. The implication of this to the industry is disquieting, given the crucial role apprenticeships play in the sector. The Irish model of apprentice training, exalted as a model of excellence when economic drivers were favourable, has been shown to be over-reliant upon employer stability and new apprentice registrations in order for it to flourish. In 2013, the Irish Government announced a review of apprenticeships, in order to address these issues. Though this review extolled the virtues of apprenticeships it failed to address the labour market issues associated with the industry. Now firmly in recovery, the industry faces a knowledge and skills deficit which has the potential to render it unable to respond to future growth. The need for change in the current apprenticeship training system is thus imperative. The paper critically analyses the Irish construction apprenticeship training system and provides a comparative analysis to international practices to identify a benchmark for a new Irish apprenticeship model for construction. The findings highlight the basis of a rethinking of Irish apprenticeship in order to future-proof training and protect against the cyclical fluctuations of the construction industry.
Ó Murchadha, E. and Murphy, R. (2016) Rethinking Apprenticeship Training for the Construction Industry in Ireland. 32nd Annual ARCOM Conference, 5-7 September 2016, Manchester, UK.