ICE Northern Ireland has called for the introduction of a new civil engineering apprenticeship to ensure the delivery of key infrastructure projects and give young people a chance to make Northern Ireland a better place in which to live and work.
The apprenticeship call was one of 10 recommendations in ICE Northern Ireland’s 2016 Manifesto, Building Our Quality of Life, launched at Stormont. It follows the results of a Skills Barometer which revealed that civil engineering faces the second highest level of undersupply over the next 10 years.
ICE Northern Ireland director, Richard Kirk, welcomed the Northern Ireland Executive’s commitment to infrastructure projects over the next five years, but stressed that action was needed to ensure delivery.
“In recent months – particularly after the flooding – more and more people have realised how vital resilient infrastructure is to our economy and to our quality of life. It is encouraging to see heightened interest.” he said.
“We know infrastructure delivers clear economic and social outcomes – every pound of investment generates £2.84 in the wider economy, and 94% of surveyed businesses cite infrastructure as a decisive element when planning future investment. But the benefits of resilient infrastructure will not be fully realised without sustained investment.
“We also need to see steps taken to deliver a skilled workforce for the future. This presents a great opportunity for our young people to make Northern Ireland a better place in which to live and work, and we believe a civil engineering apprenticeship should be established.”
The ICE NI Manifesto included a needs assessment of five industry sectors: flooding, water, waste, energy and transport. Three sectors earned a C grade, and energy and waste were graded D, meaning they are “at risk”. Kirk said ignoring these ongoing issues means “we risk making Northern Ireland unsafe, inefficient and ill-prepared for the future.”
The report also calls for the North-South Interconnector electricity connection to be delivered by May 2021 to ensure affordable and secure electricity supply. It also calls for construction of a publicly owned Energy from Waste facility by May 2021 to manage waste resources and generate local energy.
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.”