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Building a career in the construction industry

The strong growth in the sector has led to an acute shortage of skilled professionals

“Since the last recovery, the construction and engineering industry has grown rapidly and is set to grow even further across all sectors.” Photograph: iStock

“Since the last recovery, the construction and engineering industry has grown rapidly and is set to grow even further across all sectors.” Photograph: iStock


The construction and engineering industry is growing strongly, with demand across all areas from professional services such as architecture right through to contracting and maintenance. “Demand appears to be as strong as ever,” says Dermot Carey, director of safety and training with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF). “A couple of very big jobs which are due to start next year will generate further pressure on the recruitment market in the industry.”

There are 150,000 people employed in the sector, according to Carey, and that is expected to grow strongly in the coming years. “The Department of Finance has forecast employment to grow to 220,000 by 2024 as a result of the Ireland 2040 plan. It had fallen to 98,000 in 2010 after the crash. The DKM research is somewhat old at this stage, but in 2016 they produced a report which forecast that the industry could grow at 9 per cent annually and generate a total of 118,000 new jobs up to 2020. One other thing that is not often mentioned is that 12,000 people retire from the industry every year and they have to be replaced.”

Tom Doyle of construction and engineering recruitment specialist Kppm believes growth will increase in the coming years. “I have been in the construction and engineering industry since 1990 and I have seen the peaks and troughs in the industry over the years,” he says. “Since the last recovery, the construction and engineering industry has grown rapidly and is set to grow even further across all sectors, including commercial mixed-use projects, residential projects, and high-tech sectors such as pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and semiconductor plants, as well as civil works infrastructure projects including water, wastewater and roads projects.”

Skills shortages

This growth has naturally led to shortages. “There is an acute shortage of skilled professionals, with over 90 per cent of employers in the industry in Ireland reporting skills shortages across all sectors from design stage to project handover stage. We specialise in finding hidden talent for our clients and help them add suitable key members to their teams. Our team has vast experience and knows almost everyone in the industry, and we are one of the preferred recruitment partners to most companies in the industry. We have strong relationships with candidates and know who’s not happy where they are, who wants to progress their career, is looking for more money, or who may want to work on a particular project. Employers like that and they know that we can supply quality people.”

But the industry is still experiencing difficulties in finding suitable people. Carey points to curtain wall fitters as an example. “We are involved in an initiative with Ballyfermot Training Centre to establish a curtain wall installer course. It’s a 20-week course for 14 people and we are struggling to fill it. Companies in that area say they could take on a few hundred people if they were available. There is a lot of demand for those people.”

Moderating growth next year will offer a welcome respite, according to Carey. “Ibec has forecast that the economy will grow by 3 per cent next year,” he says. “That’s a little bit slower than it has been. Personally, I think it’s better to grow slowly and steadily than to have the boom and bust cycles. That would enable us to plan better to provide the resources required for that growth.”

That planning will also be assisted by new research due to be completed next year. “The Construction Sector Group, a partnership between Government and the industry, has put out a tender for research into the skills demand for the next three years. That should be delivered by May 2020 and will give us greater insight into future demand.”