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The trend for school-leavers to prefer to automatically opt for college has resulted in a shortage of skilled workers in certain fields, warns Dr Paul Downing, Hovione general manager.
“The single biggest challenge we have experienced is in the area of skills,” says Mr Downing.
He says it’s believed the low number of skilled workers such as electricians, fitters, quality control analysts, instrument technicians as well as automation technicians, is a result of the fall-off in popularity of traditional Apprenticeship programmes and increased parental pressure on school-leavers to earn a degree. Yet, he points out, the traditional apprenticeship route offers all participants potentially excellent careers.
"We would like to see more emphasis placed by second-level career guidance teachers on the option of apprenticeships in all of the different trades," he said, adding that the issue has become a "significant" problem in recent years. The focus of the Hovione pharmaceutical plant in Cork, at which just under 200 people are employed, is Contract Manufacturing, offering both drug substance and particle engineering capabilities and services.
"Because of the shortage we are having to hire contract resources instead of being able to employ permanent staff members," Dr Downing explained.
"We are trying to source laboratory technicians for example, who have become skilled through an Apprenticeship route rather than through a third level degree but it is difficult to find such personnel.