Boom and bust puts young people off careers in construction

Apprentices told there was no future are now wanted back, industry event hears

Rise and fall: Construction boom and bust cycles are putting young people off pursuing a career in the industry, says Iput’s Tom Costelloe. Photograph: Getty

Rise and fall: Construction boom and bust cycles are putting young people off pursuing a career in the industry, says Iput’s Tom Costelloe. Photograph: Getty

 

Building’s boom and bust cycle deters young people from following careers in the industry, leading figures warned on Thursday.

Tom Costelloe, head of construction with property fund Iput pointed out that the industry had “destroyed livelihoods” during the recession which began 10 years ago.

At the time, it employed 230,000 people, and had too shed 70,000 of those jobs quickly. Mr Costelloe, a well known figure in the sector, told the Construction Industry Federation annual conference that little thought was given to what was the minimum number of people that the sector required.

“At that time, there were about 20,000 apprentices in the system, and they were told that there was no future for them,” he said. “Now we are telling them that we want them all back.”

Mr Costelloe was speaking as part of a panel that looked at issues such as the looming labour shortage that are hindering the industry and efforts to tackle the housing crisis.

He stressed that the industry was a great environment in which to work and could offer good careers.

Mr Costelloe also pointed out that there was a bias towards third level education in career guidance in secondary schools, which worked against avenues such as apprenticeships.

Tom Dunne, head of Dublin Institute of Technology’s school of surveying, told the conference that part of the sector’s problem was that it was only “recruiting from half the human race” and not attracting enough women.

“The number of females is really really low,” he said, “The industry is not attractive enough to females and there are other industries that are attractive to females. We are losing out on that.”

Several contributors from the audience suggested that promoting more women to the boards of leading building companies could help address that imbalance.