Boatyard owner wants apprentice scheme set up for shipwrights
The owner of a thriving Cork boatyard has called for the establishment of an apprenticeship scheme for shipwrights, warning that without one, the Irish marine industry will be unable to expand.
He has raised the issue with a number of official bodies in a bid to highlight the need for such a programme.
About 60% of Ger Sullivan’s workforce at the Bere Island Boatyard just off the West Cork coast, are from Eastern Europe — because he cannot find suitably skilled workers in Ireland to build or repair boats.
“There are no specific training courses for shipyard workers or for shipwrights — and this is not just in Cork, but in Ireland,” warned Mr Sullivan, who said that the establishment of such a scheme was crucial to what he described as the rapidly expanding business of maintaining and repairing vessels.
“The marine industry is in a growth cycle at the moment. We have a lot of offshore work in the maintenance and repair of large vessels in the fishing and oil industries, for example, but without the proper skillset we cannot continue to meet the demand into the future.”
He has, he says, raised the issue with a number of organisations such as the Cork Education and Training Board, the National Maritime College Of Ireland in Rinagskiddy, and BIM.
“In order to expand our company, for example, we need qualified workers and we have to have a way of training local people.
“Currently the apprenticeship schemes that are avail- able are not suited to our specific needs. In the past we’ve had to go to Eastern Europe to find suitably skilled workers with the necessary experience.
“In our company we have a good skillset but in order to move forward we need apprenticeship programmes established specifically for shipwrights.
“As a company, we’d be happy to engage in training such workers in conjunction with an apprenticeship scheme,” he said, adding that such a scheme would have to be established, accredited, and run in a structured and professional manner and with an appropriate pay-scale for apprentices in terms of incremental qualifications.
At the moment, said Mr Sullivan, more than half of his 14strong workforce were from Eastern Europe, but that if an effective apprenticeship scheme was set up, the company would be able to hire locally.
“As the owner of a marine industry I want to emphasise that such training is absolutely crucial to the future of the industry — the industry cannot grow without this skillset and this skillset is not available in Ireland at the moment, although we had it back in the sixties and seventies.”
Ger Sullivan, Bere Island Boatyard: Wants an apprenticeship scheme for shipwrights.
Ardanakilla Lighthouse, Bere Island, where Ger Sullivan’s boatyard is based.