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Lack of Surveyors and Apprentices Threaten Growth in Construction Industry

DIT and CIF release reports revealing lack of supply of key construction workers

Lack of Surveyors and Apprentices Threaten Growth in Construction Industry

The construction sector is thriving and enjoying a period of sustained growth after it was hit abysmally during the recession. Since the sector hit rock bottom in 2013, employment has grown by 50,000 in the construction industry. But this isn’t enough. With over 35,000 new houses required annually for the next five years and an expected 112,000 new jobs required in construction by 2020 there are vast opportunities for work in the industry. The problem is there are too many opportunities and not enough graduates or apprentices to take up employment. There has been a significant growth in the number of students entering construction courses but despite this there still are not enough graduates to meet the demand. Graduates of surveying are especially lacking. Apprentices too are in demand and play a crucial role in the growth of the sector.

Chronic Shortage of Surveyors

A new report by DIT Lecturer Dr Róisín Murphy, Employment Opportunities and Future Skills Requirements for Surveying Professions 2018 – 2021 predicts that 3,739 additional surveying positions will be created over that period. However, the number of students graduating from property and construction-related degree programmes over the same period will only number 1,577, a shortfall of 2,162. According to this report Ireland is set to experience a shortage of over 2,000 construction and property surveyors over the next four years.

Dr Róisín Murphy says the situation is so severe that the lack of supply of suitably qualified surveying professionals is now the primary constraint to employment growth.  “Over the last four years, there has been a notable increase in employment across every surveying profession” “The projected demand for surveyors between 2018-2021 spans every level of experience, from graduate to senior surveyor, and as positions are filled at higher levels, it will undoubtedly generate further opportunities for graduates.” She acknowledged the increase in enrolment on third level surveying programmes in the last number of years but insisted the increased supply of graduates still continues to be outstripped by demand.

Dr Murphy noted how the shortage of surveyors is particularly acute in the property surveying sector which includes estate agency, valuations, asset management and property management. The shortfall here is predicted to be 1,110 in the next four years.

The construction sector is under huge pressure to deliver on government plans such as National Development Plan 2040, the lack of surveyors is having a seriously negative impact and threatening the delivery of development plans and the growth of the sector. According to Dr Murphy the lack of supply of suitably qualified surveying professionals is now the primary constraint to employment growth. While surveyors are in short supply there will be upward pressure on wage levels and ultimately on building costs.

Data for the report, which was commissioned by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, was collected from SCSI member practices via an online survey, interviews with industry stakeholders and enrolment data from third level institutions. The SCSI’s Director of Education James Lonergan described the findings as alarming. He highlighted the need to promote the profession and facilitate collaboration between the industry, the SCSI and the education sector. He also asked for more investment in property and construction courses at third level education.

Table below shows the results of the report.


Shortage of Apprentices in Construction

The lack of surveyors isn’t the only obstacle for growth in the construction sector. A recent survey conducted by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) on behalf of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has found that Ireland lacks the requisite number of apprentices in construction to meet our housing and infrastructure needs.

Dermot Carey, Director of Safety and Training, CIF saidAround 2006, we had over 25,000 apprentices in the industry and an annual registration of 8,306. Today, we only have around 3,000 new registrations annually. We have only 7 female apprentices in the construction industry.”

The figures for uptake of apprenticeships are alarming when compared to the numbers registering just over a decade ago. The figures are particularly worrying for uptake of the wet trades, as shown in the table below.

If the construction industry continues to grow as forecast, a lack of apprenticeships will have a long-term impact on Ireland’s ability to grow, it will put upward pressure on wages across the industry and ultimately, it is possible that some trades will be left with a void of homegrown talent. 

Many of the leaders in the sector entered at apprenticeship level and have worked their way up to managerial and director roles. Apprentices are the cornerstone of the construction sector and play a vital part in the development of the industry. Increasing apprenticeship levels is critical for Ireland to deliver on housing and infrastructural needs.

According to the DIT/CIF report the top three barriers to companies employing tradespeople were identified in the survey as being:

  1. Discontinuous demand for work
  2. Onerous legislative obligations
  3. Costs of direct employment of construction trades

Less than one third of company respondents to the survey are currently employing apprentices. The survey report’s authors Eoghan Ó Murchadha and Dr. Róisín Murphy of DIT, concluded from the low number of firms engaging apprentices, that residual uncertainty remains within the industry and consequently there is a reluctance to employ apprentices for up to four years.

The report made several recommendations to incentivise companies to take on apprentices. Such recommendations included tax incentives, a grant system, a review of the off-the-job phase to improve employer engagement, and develop a collaborative forum to actively promote the construction sector for career choice.

If you are interested in finding out more about the construction sector and the diverse range of careers within the sector click here.

For more information on apprenticeships click here.

The CareersPortal Team






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