The Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC), which claims to represent the oil heating and cooking industry in UK and Republic of Ireland, is urging young people to consider an apprenticeship or vocational training as the first step to career success this National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from 14th – 18th March 2016.
The call is part of OFTEC’s drive to recruit more young people to careers in the heating industry. The organisation is concerned that Northern Ireland’s economic recovery may be in jeopardy due to a chronic skills shortage which is particularly apparent in the trade sector.
After several years of recession, in common with other UK regions, the construction sector in Northern Ireland is facing a skills shortage, as the number of students enrolling in construction-related courses has fallen.
Recent figures from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) also revealed that the percentage of Northern Ireland firms reporting higher workloads rose by 23 per cent last year, yet just 25% of construction companies are operating at full capacity and around 20% are at half capacity or less, according to a recent survey by the Construction Employers Federation.
David Blevings, OFTEC’s Manager in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland said, “There is a growing demand for skilled tradespeople in Northern Ireland as almost half of construction SMEs are struggling to recruit adequate numbers of ‘tradies’ for jobs, such as bricklayers, carpenters, joiners and heating technicians.
“But while there are plenty of roles to be filled, fewer people are taking vocational courses or apprenticeships in skilled trades to bridge the growing gap. Skilled tradespeople are of vital importance to our economy and it’s important to remind young people that vocational qualifications and apprenticeships are not a ‘second class’ career choice.”
“If you are thinking about your next career steps, apprenticeship schemes and vocational courses that place more emphasis on practical skills may be a great option. There are lots of job opportunities out there, and consumers are always looking for tradespeople who can demonstrate their professionalism and skills through certification.”
Apprenticeship schemes combine ‘on the job’ training with high quality college learning to help 16-24 year olds to build their careers, allowing students to earn as they learn, gain qualifications and work alongside experienced staff.
Since 2002, OFTEC has run a competent persons scheme that encompasses the training, assessment and registration of technicians working in the oil heating industry which has become a quality benchmark for installers, technicians and consumers alike.
“OFTEC’s registration services have since expanded to include options such renewable heating and solid fuel registration, with OFTEC recently opening the first approved solid fuel training centre in Northern Ireland at Micon in Lisburn. However, 66% of OFTEC’s registered technicians are over 40 years of age, and only 10% are under 30, so there’s an urgent need to bring new blood into the industry”, David added.
Paul Henry, Assistant Head of School Construction and Construction and Engineering Services, South Eastern Regional College, added; “We have seen an increase in demand for trades in recent months; our OFTEC course for oil heating has always been popular but more students are showing an interest in vocational trades as the property sector shows improving signs and increasing consumer demand for competent, trustworthy people to upgrade and renovate their homes. For any students interested in apprenticeships at SERC contact 0345 600 7555 for further information.”
National Apprenticeship Week is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service and is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy. To date, over 4,700 apprentices have pledged to commit to taking up traineeship opportunities, with over 800 businesses across the UK pledging to create new apprenticeship vacancies or opportunities.
Apprenticeship schemes are available in a range of disciplines and most are suitable for 16-24 year olds. More information is available on the NI Direct website http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/apprenticeships.