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construction sector recruitment

Construction Sector Recovery Leads To Recruitment Challenges

construction sector recruitment

There has been a significant recovery in the construction sector since 2012. According to the Irish Construction Industry “the building and construction industry increased its volume of output by 4.1% in the second quarter of 2014 when compared to the previous year”. In residential construction the ESRI predict that between 10,000 and 12,000 new houses will be needed between now and 2015. Further predictions project that this requirement will double to between 20,000 and 25,000 homes to accommodate ongoing demographic change. A further report carried out by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland entitled the “Construction Sector Outlook 2014” has forecasted the creation of about 30,000 new jobs over the next few years.

 

Workers Abroad

Many of our skilled construction workers have left Ireland to seek opportunities abroad. A construction boom and tax free salaries have attracted many Irish construction workers to the Middle East. According to the Irish Times in the United Arab Emirates the Irish population has increased by about 30 per cent to an estimated 6,000 people. In Riyadh the Irish Embassy has reported an increase in the number of families now living in Saudi Arabia to an estimated 3,000 people and a further 1,000 Irish people residing in Qatar. Canada has also been an attractive destination for many of our engineering specialists due to its current scarcity of workers. It is estimated that 3,000 skilled Irish construction workers will be working in Canada as engineering specialists by the end of 2014.

 

In addition to skilled construction workers leaving our shores many Irish construction companies have also set up new ventures overseas. Some of these companies’ strengths include English as the established business language and high innovation and design standards. In 2010 Irish construction firms P Elliot & Company Limited and Wills Bros Ltd set up a new joint venture in Saudi Arabia. In 2011 Sligo based company Jennings O’ Donovan & Partner followed suit and announced that it had secured a contract of 2.8m as the Primary Infrastructure Development for a large development in Bahrain. Irish construction companies such as Kentz, Laing O’Rourke and Kentech have also won significant projects with some offering attractive overseas packages for the construction professionals and their families.

 

Talent Shortages in the Irish Market

As the Irish construction housing market has seen a bounce-back in job opportunities, there are now not enough suitably qualified graduates to fill them. The downturn in the building sector five years ago triggered a dramatic fall in secondary school leavers interest in third level study in courses linked to this area. According to Career and Education News between 2008 and 2013, CAO first preferences for construction related courses plunged from 552 to 195. Engineers Ireland also recently highlighted that there will be a shortage of engineering graduates in the years ahead and that during the 2013/2014 academic year only 62 construction engineers graduated. An additional problem of having a percentage of our skilled construction workers overseas on high tax free salaries poses further problems for engineering companies in relation to the recruitment of staff.

 

Future Outlook

The ongoing recovery of the construction industry along with the issue of many of our skilled engineering professionals overseas poses questions for companies, educators and the government in how we ensure we have sufficient talent available for the opportunities which will emerge.

 

The government recently announced a stimulus package for the construction industry titled “Construction 2020”. One of the points outlined within this package was a tax incentive scheme to increase supply for residential housing developments and to increase job numbers within the construction sector.

 

While it is unwise to look for a situation where any sector is too popular a choice (demand for architecture and civil engineering during the boom was out of sync with future opportunities), there is certainly a case that more interest can be promoted in relevant construction courses. Many of our mechanical and electrical construction companies have reported difficulty in finding strong candidates for junior and intermediate roles – while there has simultaneously not been a large demand from school-leavers for building services courses.

 

Along with this, experienced managers in the construction sector have commented that educators need to provide more “real world” exposure to future engineers towards the end of their third level education – eg. better Excel and planning software skills (MS Project, Primavera etc.) as these will enable them to bring greater value and “hit the ground running” with companies in the marketplace. It looks likely that Irish companies will try hard to attract many of our overseas engineers back home in the near future – they will also be interested to see if an increased number of skilled graduates can emerge through the education system.

 

The answer to tackling the current deficit of qualified construction professionals should come from multiple sources including government incentives, upskilling current workers and promoting careers in construction to those entering third level education. As the Irish construction sector continues to show strong improvement we look forward to continuous growth in the year ahead.

Posted by Recruitment Consultant, Sigmar on 7 December 2017

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