Construction companies experiencing severe difficulties in sourcing workers

Construction companies across Ireland are experiencing difficulties recruiting qualified, experienced and even entry-level workers across most disciplines.

According to a survey of CIF member companies 89% of respondents are currently experiencing difficulties recruiting workers.

Across the board companies qualified tradespeople are most in demand, particularly those in the wet trades such as block laying, plastering, tiling and painting/decorating.

Respondents also reported a severe lack of engineers, quantity surveyors, foremen, project managers, general operatives, ground workers and apprentices.

74% of those surveyed, said that these recruitment issues are having a direct affect on their companies’ ability to deliver projects on time.

With 79% of respondents reporting that difficulties with recruitment are negatively affecting their business.

Dermot Carey, Director of Safety & Training, Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said: “We are working hard to promote the industry as a career destination for more young people. Despite a healthy 25-year pipeline of work, increasing wages, more technology-led careers and the global nature of construction careers, numbers of young people registering for apprenticeships and apply to construction management in third level is static or declining.”

“There is a noble purpose to a career in construction and we have to get that message out to young people.  Unfortunately, schools are only considered truly successful when over 95% of their students go on to 3rd level.  The high dropout rates of young people after one in colleges shows the problem with this thinking. The HEA recently found that 63% of student drop outs from courses occur in the first year. How many of those young people would have been better served by being directed towards other courses or apprentices? Schools must be assessed on their ability to help find the learning route that suits students best – not simply how many students go on to third level alone.

We are also calling for the many Irish people living abroad with construction expertise and qualifications to return here to work.  If you are considering a return, contact us and we will help in any way we can. We find ourselves in a position where we have no time to lose, we need to attract those from other countries with construction skills here to deliver the huge demand in housing and infrastructure Ireland’s economy and society requires.

The CIF has repeatedly flagged the urgency in addressing the growing demand for workers as far back as 2013, as activity in the construction sector began to increase. As we can see from our member survey, many companies are now experiencing difficulties recruiting staff which can cause delays, so unfortunately these concerns were entirely warranted.

Across the board- be it key trades, the more traditional roles such as bricklaying or plastering, or professions like quantity surveying, engineering, project management, BIM and green building, the industry is now crying out for workers.

However, unlike previous surges in construction activity experienced here, many of those skilled, qualified and experience construction workers throughout other EU member states, who may once have come here for work, are now experiencing an increase in activity in their own nations, and so we must begin to also look outside the EU.”

The Department of Business Enterprise and Employment (DBEI) currently lists a range of construction jobs ineligible to non-nationals for work permits, including: bricklayers; roofers; plumbers; carpenters; plasterers; floorers and wall tilers; painters and decorators; and construction and building trades supervisors.

The CIF has made a detailed submission to the DBEI to have a number of essential trades added to the eligibility list for work permits for those outside the EU.

The DBEI is currently conducting a review of the work permits list which is expected to be finalised shortly.
Dermot Carey added: “In 2016, EY/DKM consultants and SOLAS predicted that the industry would need 112,000 additional employees up to 2020 to meet the demands of Government strategies in housing and infrastructure. Since then the ESRI’s estimate of the level of housing output required has increased by 30 per cent to 35,000 new houses per year. The recent announcement of the National Planning Framework and National Development Plan is a potential game-changer for the Irish economy and society. The construction industry will be front and centre in its delivery. However, construction companies face significant challenges in translating this into the much-needed housing, world-class infrastructure and the sorts of specialist buildings that underpin Ireland’s attractiveness for FDI.”