CAO applications for construction related courses have shown a sizable jump

CAO applications for construction related courses have shown a sizable jump in this year’s Leaving Certificate.

Architecture and engineering courses saw an increase in interest by students of 13%, and other construction related courses saw an increase of approximately 8%. 

Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) stated:  “The Irish economy depends on the construction sector to build the homes, offices spaces, and infrastructure required by businesses across the country. Any sign of demand for more construction work can be directly correlated to an increase of general economic activity. We are engaging with Solas and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to ensure there is a regular stream of skilled people to maintain the infrastructure, housing, commercial and FDI building that will sustain economic growth and shape Ireland over the next decade.  Students are acutely aware of this fact, and are keen to be in a position where they can gain meaningful, stable employment once they leave 3rd level education.  A graduate civil engineer in Ireland can expect a salary of around €28,000. This will rise to up to €50,000 with 6-9 years’ experience. A junior quantity surveyor is looking at a salary in the region of €35,000 and that will rise to €50,000 with 10 years’ experience.”

“A student graduating from a construction related discipline has a lot to look forward to upon finishing 3rd level and we want to ensure that they have a choice to remain in Ireland or experience a work stint abroad.  Construction work is a passport to a great career.  At the moment, Irish construction companies are building specialist buildings, infrastructure and homes here and across the globe.   As the Irish economic recovery continues, it goes hand in hand with a demand for new construction projects. High-end residential units, commercial offices, and healthcare labs are the most dynamic areas we’re seeing at the moment. These companies are increasingly seeking people in managerial, communications, finance and operations.  Increasingly, the skills you gain while working in a trade or in the industry in Ireland are globally transferable.  A huge amount our members have the expertise and are building fantastic buildings and infrastructure in the UK, across the EU, Africa and the Far East.

“Here at home, we’re building the future economy of Ireland and our world-class construction skills are a major draw for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies looking for new locations. A new data centre for facebook is being built by Irish construction companies in Meath, and Bristol- Myers Squibb are constructing a new state-of-the-art, large-scale biologics manufacturing facility in Dublin. Thanks to this top-class construction, the new plant will produce multiple life-saving therapies for the company’s global market.”

The CIF also warned of a looming skills shortage if the Government do not implement the right educational and training policy framework urgently. Mr Parlon stated: “While the increase in course application is great news, more needs to be done by our industry, by the Government, and by related training and educational boards to ensure that graduates are skilled correctly to meet the needs of the industry in Ireland.  Recently we have seen unprecedented hiring activity, particularly for architects and property workers.  The CIF will shortly begin a campaign aimed at the diaspora to come home to work in construction jobs in Ireland, and in our upcoming pre-Budget submission, we have outlined a number of policy initiatives which we believe the Department of Education, and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation should undertake in order to skill construction graduates accordingly. We will also launch a major skills forecast and policy document in the coming months in addition to our vision for how the industry will shape a sustainable economy with vibrant communities and world class housing and infrastructure for Ireland up to 2027.”

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While welcoming the general upward trend in demand for engineering-related courses as the first round of CAO offers go out to students tomorrow, Engineers Ireland Registrar Damien Owens stressed that for significant infrastructure initiatives like the new Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness to succeed, Ireland needed to produce more engineers at a quicker rate.

Damien Owens, a Chartered Engineer, said: “The upturn in student interest in construction-related courses is extremely positive, but the economic demand for engineering skills in this area continues to totally outstrip supply.  To really progress Government projects like the Housing Plan and the Local Infrastructure Fund, Ireland must rapidly increase the rate at which we are producing engineers to make these housing ambitions a reality in the coming years.” 

The Housing Plan has targeted building 25,000 new homes annually over the next six years and the supply of an additional 47,000 social housing units. 

In civil and environmental engineering disciplines however, the number of honours third-level graduates next year will be down to less than 10% of the 2014 number, and it is expected that there will be no building services graduates at all.

“In order to future-proof the country’s sustainable economic growth, we need to concertedly build on the renewed student interest in engineering,” Owens said. “Rigorously trained and creative engineers are vital to achieving a knowledge-based, sustainable future for Ireland.  Government needs to work with industry to incentivise more students to choose engineering as a career and to help them navigate their way through the various training and education routes available such as third-level, apprenticeships and further skills-based training. Furthermore, engineering is a truly global profession that often involves building experience overseas, so the career possibilities are truly endless.”   

Engineers Ireland has also previously expressed concern regarding the high dropout rate in engineering-related subjects at third-level.  Latest figures show that one-in-six new entrants to third-level is failing to progress on to the second year, with an even higher dropout rate for engineering degree programmes according to the HEA.

Owens concluded: “Syllabus change and the reintroduction of bonus points for higher-level maths in schools has helped boost take-up and interest in engineering, but a disparity between what students learn in school and their college experience is a major concern.  It is vital that we actually convert the renewed interest in maths and engineering-related third-level courses into the adequate supply of skilled engineers and labourers that the economy so badly needs.”

For students seeking an alternative that what is on offer from the CAO, the CIF have established a first of its kind website, where students are employers can be matched according to needs and interests.