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Thursday, 12 December

ICE on Apprenticeships Road

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has urged that the introduction of a civil engineering apprenticeship is necessary to ensure the delivery of key infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland.

ICE has voiced its concerns following the recently published Skills Barometer identifying that civil engineering faces the second ‘highest level of undersupply’ over the next 10 years and that apprenticeships are crucial to matching demand.

“Apprentices could begin work following their GCSEs with no educational debt and a clear pathway to higher professional levels within our industry,” stated Richard Kirk, Regional Director, Northern Ireland, ICE. “We welcome the Northern Ireland Executive’s commitment to key infrastructure projects over the next five years and this is a great opportunity for our young people make the Province a better place to live and work.”

Establishment of a civil engineering apprenticeship was one of 10 recommendations included in ICE NI’s 2016 Manifesto, Building Our Quality of Life which launched at Stormont earlier this week. The Manifesto is centred on three themes – Delivery, Resilience and Skills – and details how infrastructure ensures economic growth, provides jobs, keeps society safe and enhances our quality of life.

ICE in Northern Ireland has recognised that in recent months and particularly after the current flooding problems, more and more people have realised how resilient infrastructure is ‘vita’l to the local economy and the quality of life. “It’s encouraging to see heightened interest but now we need to deliver and give our young people the opportunity to start out in a very exciting profession,” said Mr Kirk. “Infrastructure has clear economic and social outcomes – every £1 of investment generates £2.84 in the wider economy and 94% of surveyed businesses cite infrastructure as a decisive element when planning future investment.”

Infrastructure investment required

However, though ICE welcomed the devolution of Corporation Tax, its benefit would not be fully realised without investment in infrastructure and a skilled workforce.

Its Manifesto includes a needs assessment of five industry sectors – flooding, water, waste, energy and transport. Three sectors have earned a C grade, and energy and waste have a D grade, meaning they are at risk. “If we ignore these current issues, we risk making Northern Ireland unsafe, inefficient and ill-prepared for the future,” warned Mr Kirk.

ICE NI’s Manifesto urges government to deliver the North-South Interconnector by May 2021 to ensure affordable and secure electricity supply as well as a publicly owned energy-from-waste facility by May 2021 to manage waste resources and generate local energy. To sustainably manage water consumption and to provide a solid investment stream for NI Water, ICE NI echoes the EU’s recommendation for domestic water charging. At the moment, Northern Ireland is the only region in the EU that has not implemented domestic water charging.

“Funds for maintaining infrastructure and delivering services to people have to come from somewhere and we risk having to pay more in the future for problems we do not solve today,” warned Mr Kirk.

Picture:    Richard Kirk, ICE NI – avoiding infrastructure investment and the role of apprenticeships risk “making Northern Ireland unsafe, inefficient and ill-prepared for the future

Article written by Cathryn Ellis

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