There has never been a better time to be working in the Construction Industry. Construction activity is increasing and is projected to grow by 30 per cent in the next four years. Employment in the sector was up by 9.9 per cent in 2017, the second highest sector for growth, eclipsed only by Administration and Support Services which increased by 11.6 per cent (CSO).
With the country in the grip of a housing crisis the government has been forced to plan and invest heavily in the building sector. Government strategies such as the National Development Plan 2040, will provide ample opportunity for young people to join and work in a new modern construction industry. There are already huge demands placed on the sector to deliver on government strategies and the skills shortage in the sector is putting increased pressure on companies to source talent. With an estimated need for an additional 112,000 workers in the construction sector by 2020 (SOLAS) there will be even greater pressure to bring the necessary workforce together to meet targets set down by the National Development Plan 2040. Failure to attract people into the industry will see labour costs increase and a depletion of the available investment for vital infrastructure. This is an emergency situation for the industry. ‘Construction needs you’ àla Uncle Sam is not an exaggerated call from an industry in crisis.
Apart from answering the call of national duty, why else would one consider a career in construction? Here are six good reasons why:
- Growing Sector
Construction is currently the fastest growing sector in the economy. In 2017 construction output increased by 8 per cent and output is predicted to rise by another 14 per cent in 2018. Job opportunities are in abundance.
Despite this growth the sector is an unpopular choice for school leavers applying for Higher Education. 2018 figures show that less than 3 per cent of applicants opted for courses in the ‘Construction and Architecture’ sector. The beating the sector got during the recession may be behind these figures, people may still be afraid that the construction industry could be decimated with another crash in the economy. The government’s €115bn investment programme aims to provide career security in the construction sector for the next decade. Hopefully this investment will give young people the confidence to enter this sector as young blood is desperately needed to keep the sector alive.
- Variety of Work Projects
Work in the construction industry offers great variety to employees. The public interest in the housing crisis has highlighted the need for more houses and apartments. ESRI estimates that 35,000 houses will need to be built per year for the next five years. But there is so much more building work going on beyond building houses.
The construction industry plans, builds and renovates all sorts of buildings such as office blocks, hotels, hospitals, schools, shopping centres etc. Apart from property there are projects such as the building of roads and bridges, transport systems, water supply networks and power stations. With so much variety there is lots of exciting projects to get involved in.
- Offers a Vast Array of Careers
With such a variety of building work going on there is an even greater array of careers to choose from. There are a lot of skills and expertise required to plan and build a structure. The construction industry offers many careers for you to get involved in. The skills in the sector can be divided into four main area:
Construction Craft workers
Previously referred to as ‘labourers’ and unskilled, this area currently employs approx.. 40,000 people. Today these on-site jobs have become more specialised – examples include: steel workers, pipe layers, scaffolders. These are skilled roles that require a good deal of training.
These workers enter the sector through apprenticeships. With the recent redevelopment and investment in apprenticeships there has been a surge in the number of people choosing to train using this ‘earn-and-learn’ process. SOLAS figures show that apprenticeships have jumped by 24 per cent (that is over 2,000) from 2016 to 2017. Electrical apprenticeships were the most popular followed by construction, engineering, plumbing and carpentry. 2017 recorded 12,849 registered apprenticeships. The government initiative Generation Apprenticeship aims to promote and increase the number of apprenticeships to 30,000 by 2020.
Engineers and Surveyors
The construction sector employs many different engineering and surveyor roles. Civil, structural, building services, environmental and geotechnical engineering roles are required, as well as specialist areas, such as acoustics engineers. Civil engineers evaluate, research and manage major civil engineering schemes, while building surveyors examine properties and advise on any defects.
There is a serious skills shortage in the engineering profession with some companies looking abroad to source talent. This is a growing profession and engineering graduates are highly sought after; in the top five for the most graduate opportunities currently available in Ireland.
Architects are the professionals in the sector who plan and develop designs for construction projects. Once qualified, the variety of work open to you as a professional architect is wide ranging. You can work for yourself, or as part of a team in a small or large private practice. The architectural section of Government Departments, Local Authorities, Semi-State or commercial organisations also employ architects.
- Range of Entry Routes
You can work in the construction sector with the most basic training right up to postgraduate level. There is also scope to develop and learn whilst employed in the sector.
Local training centres provide courses in SOLAS Safe Pass Training and operative training such as fork lift operation, Institutes of Further Education offer courses in areas such as Building Construction, Engineering, Carpentry and some pre-apprenticeship courses. You have the option of taking the ‘earn and learn’ apprenticeship route. This is a very viable option as the Generation Apprenticeship government initiative aims to expand and promote apprenticeship opportunities. You also have the option of studying courses linked to construction in Higher Education. Overall, there is an abundance of courses available to access work in the construction industry.
- Urgent Call for Women
Women are extremely under-represented in construction, CSO estimates that only 5.5 per cent of the workforce across all construction related sectors are female. Unsurprisingly 99 per cent of on-site workers are male. Gender balance fares better in construction offices where 56 per cent are male and 44 per cent female but this is not reflected in top management roles; only 3 per cent of CEOs and 10 per cent of company directors are female.
The desperate need for more women to enter the sector is not based on gender equality but rather on a need for more workers. 112,000 workers are needed by 2020 to meet Ireland’s housing and infrastructure requirements. This cannot be achieved if the sector only attracts men. Efforts to rebuild Ireland will fall short if we don’t get the workers; the construction sector needs to get women on board.
The Construction Federation Industry (CIF) launched their 'Diversity and Inclusion Guidance' document (2018) aiming to address gender imbalance in the industry. This document is part of CIF’s year long campaign to increase the number of women in the industry and the visibility of those already working in construction.
The CIF is working with schools to encourage girls at primary and secondary level to consider a career in the construction sector. CIF, working with the government, aim to have 25 per cent female representation in the construction workforce by 2030. Could you be one of them?
- Global Opportunities
Not only will you have huge job opportunity in Ireland but you will be able to take your skills all around the world with you too. Job opportunities are very positive in the global construction industry as it grows by 50% up to 2030. Employment in any role within an Irish construction company gives you skills that can act as a passport to work in any country. Increasingly, our employees, who are building for Facebook, Amazon, Google and other global companies, are being recruited to work in other countries.
Winthrop a leading engineering company based in Waterford are taking part in the CIF TY Work Experince Scheme. Pictured above are Keith Katus - Supervisor, Conal Wall - TY Student and Graham Walsh – Mentor.
If you are interested in getting a taste of work in the construction industry you might like to undertake work experience with one of Ireland’s leading construction companies. CIF have teamed up with CareersPortal to organise work experience placements for Transition Year students. To find out more and apply for one of these placements click here.
The CareersPortal Team
The CareersPortal Team