The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has advised that the introduction of a civil engineering apprenticeship is necessary to ensure the delivery of key infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland. With the recently published Skills Barometer identifying that civil engineering faces the second highest level of undersupply over the next ten years, the apprenticeship is crucial to matching demand.
ICE Northern Ireland Regional Director Richard Kirk said: “Apprentices could begin work following their GCSEs with no educational debt and a clear pathway to higher professional levels within our industry. We welcome the Executive’s commitment to key infrastructure projects over the next five years, and this is a great opportunity for our young people make Northern Ireland a better place to live and work.”
Establishment of a civil engineering apprenticeship was one of ten recommendations included in ICE NI’s 2016 Manifesto, Building Our Quality of Life, which launched at Stormont today. 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.
Kirk said: “In recent months, and particularly after the ongoing flooding problems, more and more people have realised how resilient infrastructure is vital to our economy and our 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.
“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. Though we welcome the devolution of corporation tax, its benefit will not be fully realised without investment in infrastructure and a skilled workforce.
“Our 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 ongoing issues, we risk making Northern Ireland unsafe, inefficient and ill-prepared for the future.”
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.
Kirk said: “Funds for maintaining infrastructure and delivering services to people have to come from somewhere. We risk having to pay more in the future for problems we do not solve today.
“We hope that our political parties will have the foresight to address the issues we’ve highlighted. In doing so, they will secure a more prosperous future for Northern Ireland and better quality of life for the people here.”
ICE NI’s 10 recommendations are:
1. Deliver key capital projects by May 2021 including York Street Interchange, A5, A6, Desertcreat, Belfast Transport Hub, and Belfast Rapid Transit to make NI a better place to live and work.
2. Establish the Central Procurement Delivery Service by December 2017 – all Government Construction Contracts (outside the Department for Infrastructure) should be procured by the Central Procurement Delivery Service to implement projects more efficiently.
3. Maintain a pipeline of infrastructure projects to attract investment, bolster industry confidence and provide greater public benefit.
4. Introduce domestic water charging by May 2019 to better protect us from pollution and sewers overflowing and to avoid fines. This revenue will provide sustainable funds for water and wastewater services, and should include protections for those who cannot afford to pay.
5. Maintain our assets to the highest standard, focussing on the resilience of our flood defences, water networks, roads and public transport.
6. Deliver the North-South Interconnector by May 2021 to ensure affordable and secure electricity supply.
7. Deliver a publicly owned Energy from Waste (EfW) facility by May 2021 to efficiently manage our waste resources and generate local energy.
8. Develop a civil engineering sectoral task group by December 2016 to include Government (DE and DfE), employers, schools, FE, HE and ICE to address the future undersupply identified in the Skills Barometer.
9. Establish a civil engineering apprenticeship by September 2016 building on the work ICE has done through engagement with employers, FE & HE.
10. Improve professional competence by giving recognition to an array of professional qualifications in procurement. ICE asks that the Department of Finance and Personnel requests that tenderers provide numbers of staff registered with the EU-recognised qualifications of Chartered Engineer, Incorporated Engineer and Engineering Technician.
Find out more about ICE NI’s Manifesto and get involved at: https://www.ice.org.uk/media-and-policy/public-affairs#stormont .