Construction upturn leaves skilled worker shortage

James Beacom, Louise Leonard, Ciaran McManus, Ciaran Rooney and Ken Coulter at the Passive Lab in the South West College

WITH exam season in full swing, young people are being strongly urged to consider apprenticeships as their next step, with industry bosses warning of a potential shortage of tradesmen in Fermanagh in the near future. 
The good news is, there appears to be a significant upturn in the county’s construction industry. The bad news is, we soon may not have enough have enough skilled workers to deal with the demand, and young people are being urged to step up and take advantage of the openings that are there.
Speaking at the Technology and Skills Centre at the South West College (SWC) last week, where there is a strong emphasis on “earning while you learn” through apprenticeships, one local employer and former SWC student urged others to follow in his footsteps. 
Ciaran Rooney of Curragh Contracts Ltd was a student at the college in 1991, was an apprentice while there, and started his own business in 2001. He now has four employees of his own, with one apprentice. 
“I’ve taken apprentices from 2001 from when I went out on my own. I used to take two every year,” he said, adding over the past few years there had been less apprentices coming through. 
“If it keeps going the way it’s going, in another four or five years time there’s going to be no tradesmen,” he continued, explaining many skilled workers had left Fermanagh. 
“A lot of people were going to Australia, or London or Dublin, and a lot of the workers are actually away due to the recession. It’s taken a lot of the tradesmen out of the county.”
Mr Rooney stressed there was now “a lot of local work”, and urged more young people to stay at home and become apprentices. 
“There’s definitely an opening for them here to make a good career out of it, and make loads of money,” he quipped. Also encouraging more apprentices to come forward, Ken Coulter of industry suppliers JP Corry, who sponsor bursaries and an award for SWC apprentices, agreed with Mr Rooney that there had been a significant growth in the local construction sector. 
“We would be seeing a big demand for material, obviously with the upturn in the building industry at the minute,” he said. 


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