WEEE Ireland, Key Industry and Training Partners Launch New ‘Circular Economy Skills Initiative’ Electrical Repair Course

July 19, 2021

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 fixable white goods has been fast-tracked to combat a major 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 and businesses across the country.

WEEE Ireland, the White Goods Association and technical training agency FIT (Fast Track to IT) joined forces to create the innovative curriculum and career pathway.

The free training course will be run with the support of Louth Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB) in a state-of-the-art 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.

“This new course is a fantastic solution to some of the circular economy challenges WEEE Ireland members face,”  said WEEE Ireland CEO, Leo Donovan.

“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.”

“The key aim of this full-time course is to address the growing need for the maintenance, repair and recycling of white goods,” said Elizabeth O’Reilly, Head of Membership and Circular Economy Lead at WEEE Ireland.

“To create a truly circular economy where products are kept in use for longer, we need skilled technicians. The longer we can extend the life of appliances and keep resources in circulation, the more we can reduce waste.

“WEEE Ireland and our key partners, supported by the CIRCULÉIRE Innovation fund, is kickstarting a change in the electrical repair culture in Ireland with this white good producer led training programme, designed to free the skills bottleneck that has arisen here.”

In 2020, WEEE Ireland 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.

When Declan McElwaine (35) took the only previous course of this type in Ireland in 2007, and the Donegal man was one of the few classmates who managed to stay in the industry. He always had an interest in how things work, and now runs his own successful appliance repair company.

“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,” said Declan.

“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.”

The value of repair and reuse is proven in research by European home appliance association APPLiA, which 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.

FIT is committed to rolling out further programmes responding to emerging Circular Economy skills needs in collaboration with Education and Training Boards (ETB) and the industry in Ireland to address the growing need for such expertise.

“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,” said Ian Collins Chairperson of the White Goods Association and Commercial Director of Beko.

“We hope to educate a new generation of skilled repair engineers and keep perfectly repairable electrical appliances in use for longer.”

“LMETB is proud to partner in the delivery of the first training programme of this kind in our Fab Labs location in Dunshaughlin. This pioneering sustainability initiative in partnership with leading manufacturers will train and equip trainees to pursue quality employment and professional careers in the maintenance, repair, and reuse of white goods”, said Martin O’Brien, CE Louth Meath Education and Training Board.

Last year, WEEE Ireland also partnered with the White Goods Association to promote repair of electrical appliances on RepairMyStuff.ie, which connects consumers with over 800 professionals in Ireland able to repair everything from watches to washing machines and as well as toys, textiles, furniture and more.

The Circular Economy Skills Initiative course is free of charge and those interested in participating can apply here.  Full driving licence is required by the completion of training.

Centre: Declan McElwaine of Electrical Appliance Services in Donegal. Left to right: David McCormack, Director of Sustainable Manufacturing at IMR & CIRCULÉIRE; Peter Davitt, CEO FIT; Patrick Meehan, Area Business Manager BSH Home Appliances; Declan Collins, Service Manager Ireland Beko Ireland; Declan Dunne, Technical & Training Manager Fisher Paykel; Michael Coogan, Customer Service Manager Glen Dimplex; Thomas Lee, Head of Aftersales Electrolux Group; Ian Collins, Commercial Director, Beko Ireland/Chairperson White Goods Association; Phoebe Schofield – Brand Activation Manager Miele; Paul Slattery, Area Service Manager Whirlpool; Beryl Gilmore, CESI Project Lead WEEE Ireland; Leo Donovan – CEO WEEE Ireland.  And with support from Martin O’Brien, CE Louth Meath Education and Training Board.

The CESI Innovation project is proudly supported by a grant from the CIRCULÉIRE  Innovation Fund. CIRCULÉIRE is Ireland’s first industry-led innovation network dedicated to accelerating the circular economy. Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) is the secretariat of CIRCULÉIRE which is funded by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EIT Climate-KIC. WEEE Ireland is one of 25 industry founding members of the CIRCULÉIRE platform.

Filed Under:   Close The Loop, Electrical Waste