Ireland is set to train a new generation of repair technicians to prevent thousands of tonnes of electrical appliances going to waste.
An industry-wide drive to extend the lives of white goods has been fast-tracked to combat a major national shortage of electrical repair experts – whose average age is now 59.
The new Circular Economy Skills Initiative course aims to produce enough experts to ensure thousands of washing machines, fridges and dishwashers are given a new lease of life in homes across the country.
WEEE Ireland, the White Goods Association and technical training agency FIT (Fast Track to IT) joined forces to create the curriculum and career pathway.
The free training course, beginning in September, will be run with the support of Louth Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB) in a centre in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.
Up to 20 trainees will complete the initial pilot 26-week programme, followed by 12 weeks’ guaranteed work placement with leading white goods industry supporters of the programme.
WEEE Ireland CEO Leo Donovan said: “This new course is a fantastic solution to some of the circular economy challenges WEEE Ireland members face.
“It helps address a skill that is vital to ensuring we can keep householders’ electrical goods in circulation for longer.
“However, we must go further in encouraging circular activity by including the repair and reuse of electrical products in the EU takeback target and not solely end-of-life recycling targets.”
In 2020, the company recycled over 470,000 white goods appliances – but no Irish training programme for the next generation of repair technicians has been available for a decade.
Declan McElwaine, 35, took the only previous course of this type in Ireland in 2007, and the Donegal man was one of the few who remained in the industry, now running a successful appliance repair company.
We hope to educate a new generation of skilled repair engineers and keep perfectly repairable electrical appliances in use for longer.Ian Collins
“Back then there was only one course, in Shannon, and a lot of people couldn’t get work experience, which was the key to getting the qualification,” Declan said.
“What’s great is this new course comes with a guaranteed work experience in the sector, which will launch trainees on what I have found to be a rewarding and much in-demand career.”
European home appliance association APPLiA found that 91% of requests to manufacturers for product fixes in 2018, resulted in an actual repair, keeping these appliances in use for much longer.
Ian Collins, chairman of the White Goods Association and Commercial Director of Beko, said: “The White Goods Field Service Technician course will open up a new and rewarding career for women and men who have an interest in prolonging the life-cycle of our white goods in the interest of sustainability, reduced waste and environmental wellbeing.
“We hope to educate a new generation of skilled repair engineers and keep perfectly repairable electrical appliances in use for longer.”
The Circular Economy Skills Initiative course is free of charge and those interested in participating in September can apply at https://fit.ie/circular-economy-skills-initiative/