Boat­yard owner wants ap­pren­tice scheme set up for ship­wrights

Irish Examiner - County - - News - Áilín Quin­lan

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.

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