This month the IPCA chair along with several members met with SOLAS the state agency tasked with developing further education and training (FET).

Attendees: Brian Coogan, Eamon McCafferty Site Control, Peter Lyons Lyons Plant Hire, Mike Harrington Harrington Plant Hire, Mark Fagan Ireland Director of Topcon, Mick English Shannon Valley & John Kirrane of JKPH

The objective of the meeting was to address the issue of the industry’s skills gap. Making it easier for prospect plant operators, contractors, and hirers to search and find a quality, sustainable provider of the training required.

The delegates met with three senior members of Solas, David Smith, Tony Dalton and Martin McManamon.

The state body were clear that their offer and capability needs to go much further.  Their appetite to help was apparent and the dialogue tone was positive and output lead.

David Smith commented there was as a seismic shift in government policy driven by the ‘housing for all’ initiative.  The body recognises a review of the current skill level is required and the outcomes must match the needs of future skill levels in addition to being aligned with modern methods of construction.

The objective of the Solas delegates on the call was to define how the body can discover what type of training and development programmes are required to support Irish contractors and hirers to deliver further growth in the sector.

Further significant changes to Safe Pass and CSCS were explained. Safe Pass will be moving online by the end of 2022, this process will handle renewals, which represents significant cost saving to both the employer and individual. In addition, a licencing model will be introduced for the issuance of the card.

Solas outlined their intent for Mount Lucas to become the national campus for construction training, with a significant investment of 20 million Euros over the next two years to enable advanced and modernised training.

The team laid out their desire to consult with the industry and thanked the IPCA for the welcomed and timely approach. The first steps being was this meeting to listen to the needs of construction so they can begin the process of matching and delivering the support required.

The IPCA went on to define what, from a plant operator training perspective, was required.  Outlining that better awareness of how perspective plant operators are able to find the body is required. Then further improvements are required to how the body recognises and supports delegates through the process of a full training programme.  All resulting in delegates completing their approved training schedule and being registered by the programme for further development and assessment…this was understood by the Solas team.

The Solas team were well prepared and had a comprehensive understanding of what was required. Describing in some detail how an entry level operator could be attracted and adopted. They went on to describe the length of the course (up to 6 months) required for entry level and refresher plant operator training. In addition, that the programme would need to cover a range of typical construction machines, their attachments and supporting technology.

This also included consultation to ensure the technical training programme was fit for purpose and agreed by selected delegates of the IPCA.

Critically, the Solas plan was that this would be funded centrally…A seismic shift from the existing process.

The first phase would be to create a sustainable programme and licencing authority to deliver a plan that works for all, is fair for all and understood by all.

The IPCA recognised and appreciated the fact that this meeting and the points discussed were significant in creating a new relationship and further partnership.

Members of the IPCA were invited to join the technical committee to ensure the voice of the hirer and contractor was heard and understood.

The IPCA will, following a very encouraging meeting be engaging further with Solas. We share the same commitment and goal and can each achieve our objectives by working in partnership for the good of Irish construction.

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