One hundred mechanics from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) can now be recruited to help reduce waiting times for NCT appointments after the Government extended the quota.
Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Neale Richmond, on Friday extended the quota of general employment permits for vehicle road worthiness testers.
It is hoped the increase in the quota will help to tackle a serious backlog at NCT testing centres across the country that have been ongoing for more than a year.
In response to questions on the matter, the Department of Transport said “considerable progress” had been made in addressing the long-term staffing issues which have caused the backlog, and in increasing capacity at test centres, including “extensive recruitment” of new vehicle inspectors.
“The RSA is supporting the service provider to improve the availability of customer booking slots and to return the service at test centres to service level agreements,” the spokesman said.
“In the interim, customers seeking test appointments may contact the NCTS directly. In the majority of cases, these vehicle owners are provided with an appointment within 30 days.”
The Department also said the Road Safety Authority had advised that, as of last Monday, there were 633 roadworthiness testers “operating or in training”.
It said NCT testers are being assigned to test centres with the most significant delays.
In terms of employment permits for roadworthiness testers available to Applus, the company operating the tests, it said 100 were previously available to any organisation wishing to apply for them. Following Friday’s announcement, the total is now 200.
Announcing the extension of the quota, Mr Richmond said: “More testers working in our NCT centres is the best way to reduce the current backlog of appointments and help ensure that drivers can access appointments in their local NCT centre when they are required.”
The quota increase, which came into effect on Friday, follows engagement between the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Transport in recent months, and a review of the workforce challenges affecting the National Car Testing service.
Minister of State at the Department of Transport with special responsibility for road safety Jack Chambers said waiting times have decreased this year as testers from outside the EEA have joined Applus to provide additional capacity.
“Recruitment for vehicle inspectors is ongoing in Ireland, but these additional resources will assist in continuing to reduce waiting times for car test appointments for NCTS customers,” he said.
Mr Richmond added: “As we have reached full employment, with over 2.6 million people at work in Ireland, there are some skill sets that are increasingly difficult for businesses to access, and these testers are a prime example.”
Mr Richmond said that where these skills are lacking both here in Ireland and throughout Europe, the employment permits system allows the State to source these workers from the rest of the world.
“Cases like this show how responsive the employment permits system is and how it can benefit both businesses, workers and the people of Ireland,” he said.
“In order to ensure that the employment permit systems is working effectively for Irish businesses, a full public consultation of the eligibility for employment permits is under way this summer. “I would encourage all companies that use the employment permits system to contribute to this review and share their experience.
“While the employment permits system can help compensate for skills that cannot be found in Ireland and the EEA, Government are also addressing these skill shortages through apprenticeships and educational training for workers.”