Letterkenny man raising profile of appliance repairs

A Letterkenny man is part of a drive to find a new generation of appliance repair technicians.
The ‘Circular Economy Skills Initiative’ course is aimed at preventing thousands of tonnes of electrical appliances ending up on the scrapheap.  In 2020 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE Ireland) recycled over 470,000 white good appliances – but no Irish training programme for the next batch of technicians has been available for over a decade.
Among those spearheading the campaign to produce enough experts to ensure washing machines, fridges and dishwashers are given a new lease of life is Declan McElwaine from Listillion, Letterkenny. He runs the firm Electrical Appliance Services.
Declan took the course in 2007, the last time it was rolled out in Ireland. At that time it was headquartered from a specially adapted training centre in Shannon, Co Clare.
On completion of his studies Declan secured work with Domestic Appliance Services before branching out on his own. The Donegal man was one of the few classmates who decided to stay in the industry.
The new drive to extend the lives of fixable white goods comes amid fears that a major shortage of electrical repair experts could be looming in Ireland. At present the average age of those doing the job is 59 with very few entering the trade behind them.
Due to the successful business he has built up for himself, WEEE Ireland and technical training agency Fast Track to IT (FIT) approached Declan to help them create the newly rekindled course.
On what drew him down his chosen career path, the Letterkenny man said, “I always had an interest in the electrical side of things and when I left St Eunan’s I decided I wanted to do an apprenticeship.
“I did that and then in 2005 I saw this course advertised. I wanted to do it but it was so far away in Shannon. But
I kept seeing adverts for it until I eventually said I would give it a go.”
The new training course will be run with the support of Louth Meath Education and Training Board in a centre in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.
Up to 20 trainees will complete the initial pilot 26-week programme, followed by 12 weeks’ work placement.
“As the saying goes, if you find a job you like then it’s not really work. And what I like is the fact that no two days are the same. Only last week I was asked do I not get fed up but the reality is that every single day and every single job is different. I travel all over the county meeting people and doing different bits and pieces. It’s a good job because you never know what the week is going to bring.”
The value of repair and reuse is proven in research by European home appliance giant APPLiA. It found that 91 per-cent of requests to manufacturers for product fixes in 2018 resulted in an actual repair, keeping these appliances in use for much longer.
But at the age of 35, Declan McElwaine is among the youngest cohort in Ireland with the skills to carry out the necessary repairs.
“A lot of people are getting out of the business and there is no one coming through to replace them which is a big problem. Hopefully this course draws more people into the industry because as it stands a lot of stuff is being recycled purely because there is no one to fix them.”
Declan recently visited the new training centre in Meath.
“When I did the course we were working on equipment on that was years old. I’ve been up to the training centre and it is an excellent facility with all top of the range stuff.
“They wanted someone who is out there working in the field and who could tell them what should be and what should be. It’s an exciting course and hopefully it works well and attracts more into this field because we do need them.”

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