Building materials firm Saint Gobain has opened a new training centre in Grange Castle, Co Dublin, which together with its sister centre in Cavan, is set to upskill some 5,000 construction industry personnel every year.
The two Construction Skills Academies, developed at a combined cost of €1.5m, are reckoned to be the biggest investment in construction industry training in over a decade and will provide training courses for up to 5,000 construction industry personnel, chiefly one and two-day course that will be offered free of charge.
The bulk of trainees will be construction tradesmen but they will also include staff from builders merchants and there will be continuous professional development (CPD) courses for architects that will focus on fire, sound and energy requirements in building regulations north and south of the border.
This Grange Castle Academy is the second Construction Skills Academy to be opened by Saint Gobain in the Republic of Ireland and there are six such academies also operating in the UK, said the company’s MD Brian Dolan. “Our academy in Kingscourt in Cavan was the first such training institution opened by the company in the British Isles. It started operating in 2010 and was officially opened by Brian Cowen, and since then has trained over 2,500 construction professionals. Our new academy was opened by the Minister for Communication, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White.
“The Kingscourt Construction Skills Academy is mainly focused on the wet trades. It is a stand-alone centre in a building built to PassivHaus standard.
“At Grange Castle, the focus is more on our dry-lining systems, but the courses will cover a wide range of topics from practical site installation to building physics and building regulations. As well as covering the theoretical aspects, there is a workshop area where course participants will get their hands dirty!”
The two centres have a full-time training coordinator plus three specialist trainers who also man Saint Gobain’s technical support phoneline.
Founded in Paris in 1665 as a glass and mirror manufacturer, Saint Gobain now operates in 64 countries and has a worldwide workforce of nearly 190,000 people involved in the manufacture and distribution of a wide range of building materials.
In Ireland, the Saint Gobain group has some 800 people employed on the island of Ireland and its brands here comprise: Bassetts (bathroom and heating supplies), Gyproc (plasterboards and plasters), Isover (insulation solutions), JP Corry (Northern Irish builders’ supplier chain) PDM (pressure creosoted timber) and Weber (mortar).
“At the moment, our business is growing. We are currently recruiting and the workforce has grown by 10% in recent months,” said Dolan, who pointed particularly to the opening of a new gypsum mine at Kingscourt as another sign of the company’s belief in the Irish economy. “We hope it sends out a good strong positive signal to everyone.
“We are seeing an increase in building activity. We’ll see 7,500 housing units completed this year and we are predicting a 27% increase to 9,500 next year. Activity is also being boosted by the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme – people don’t realise what a strong driver that is, but we are delighted to see that being continued into 2015 and also being extended into the rental sector.
“One major concern we have about the market is that the proposal for 20% deposits will make new housing unaffordable for a lot of young people — if the average house in Dublin costs €250,000, where is a young couple going to get their hands on fifty grand?
“Another concern is that it is very hard to get good quality people to come into the construction industry at present. We are looking for engineering and commercial staff and it is hard at present to get them into the industry, but that will change over time as confidence returns.
“There is a massive shortage of skilled workers in the Irish construction industry, which could be a major bottleneck as we begin to build houses again. We are opening this skills academy as a vote of confidence by Saint Gobain in the Irish construction industry which the government is hoping will triple housing output by 2020. We want to replace the ‘lost generation’ of construction workers who have left Ireland or the industry over the last six years.”
Courses available at the Saint Gobain Construction Skills Academy
• ROI Building Regulations & Compliance with the new Building Control Act – A focus on fire, sound and energy requirements.
• NI Building Regulations – A focus on fire, sound and energy requirements.
• Drylining Systems for Installers & Supervisors.
• Fire Resistance in Buildings.
• Acoustics in Buildings.
• External Wall Insulation (fee payable).
• Renovation Solutions.
• Plasterers’ Product Training.