More women construction workers needed to meet retrofitting targets

Industry making ‘considerable effort’ to bring greater gender balance to the sector

More women workers need to be attracted into building jobs to ensure the demands of major Government housing and retrofitting projects can be met, according to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

The Government’s major Housing for All plan requires and increase in in the number of workers dedicated to residential development from 40,000 to 67,500 by the middle of the decade if the goal of delivering 33,000 homes per-year is to be met.

The plan to retrofit 500,000 homes to improve their energy efficiency will require workers in that area to increase from 4,000 to 17,000 by 2024.

CIF director of safety and training Dermot Carey said that the level of participation of women in the construction workforce has increased in recent years to 14 per cent.

He said the industry is making a “considerable effort” to bring greater gender balance to the sector.

Asked if the hiring of more women will be needed to me the targets for the number of workers in the Government’s housing and retrofit plans Mr Carey said “if we’re ignoring 50 per cent per cent of the population, that’s a very dangerous route to go down. So we need to ensure that to meet the demand... that we do try and attract more women to the industry. And we know that that’s a major benefit to the industry.”

Mr Carey was speaking as he joined Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris at the launch of the Government's Future Building Initiative aimed at recruiting construction workers.

New unit

A new unit combining expertise in both Government Departments with staff from Solas and the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) will spearhead the construction recruitment drive.

Mr Harris said the Government wants to attract more women into construction and a “cultural change” needs to be brought about to ensure more women take up apprenticeships.

He said a bursary has been introduced for any company that takes on a female apprentice in an area where there’s more than 80 per cent male participation.

Mr Harris said he believes the recruitment targets for the housing and retrofit plans can be met, highlighting how the capacity will be in place this year to train the required number of retrofitting workers.

He cautioned that the Government is putting the training capacity in place but that “we now need to create the demand in terms of people willing and wanting to work in these sectors.”

Mr Harris said apprenticeships, post Leaving Cert course and further education opportunities are being highlighted for school leavers on the CAO website and employers taking on apprenticeships are being provided with €3,000 payments.

Ms Humphreys said her Department will be running a construction work skills week later this month with more than 40 events to promote jobs, training and apprenticeships in the sector.

Both ministers suggested that Ukrainian refugees may enter the construction workforce with Mr Harris saying that 14 completed safe pass training needed for construction sites last week.