A union has disputed a claim a shortage of apprentices in construction is partly due to a reluctance of younger people to ‘get out of bed for 7am’.

Conor Gray, a manager in the engineering sector, has said people were not applying to become electricians, plumbers and pipefitters at a time when they’re badly needed.

However Brian Nolan of the Connect Trade Union told The Hard Shoulder he doesn’t believe young people are inherently lazy.

“For 102 years of our existence there’s been peaks and troughs in apprenticeship interest, for various reasons.

“I don’t think the difficulty of setting an alarm clock is one of the major factors meself.”

But he says there are some difficulties.

“At present we have – not just because of COVID, but prior to COVID – we’ve had a huge backlog building in the system.

“Particularly for electrical apprentices, and then on to the plumbing and pipefitting apprentices, we’ve had a massive interest for a number of years.

“So the system is definitely clogged, and that’s been exacerbated by the COVID restrictions”.

‘Earn while you learn’

And admits pay rates are low for prolonged periods.

“We do have young lads and girls looking at the rates of pay, and they’re prolonged now because of the delays in the apprenticeship system.

“I think when a young lad or girl takes up an apprenticeship, they accept that the rates of pay are low – because it’s earn while you learn.

“And the benefit of it is by the end of your apprenticeship, you become a craft worker that can work internationally”.

Brian says there are other issues around certain sectors as well.

“The obstacles of getting people into apprenticeships are different from the alarm clock scenario.

“A feature of construction now is this bad practice of bogus self-employment – where individuals come in and pay tax a certain way, and portray themselves as self-employed.

“And they cannot employ an apprentice.

“So we have trades like carpentry, brick-laying… and many others that are damaged by the fact that the people in the trade aren’t passing those skills down to the next generation”.

‘It’s not about setting an alarm clock’ – Union disputes ‘lazy’ apprentices claim

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Main image: An apprentice tradesman uses a trowel to apply epoxy to the coving around the floor of a building in October 2014. Picture by: Peter Righteous / Alamy Stock Photo