There are likely to be many knock-on opportunities created by the growth of the construction sector, which expanded by 9% between the end of 2015 and the end of 2016. As the sector continues to expand opportunities will emerge beyond construction sites and architect’s offices, in the various industries supporting the construction sector.
This would continue the trend we saw between 2015 and 2016, with the annual average growth of construction professionals hitting 6.1% and construction craft occupations at 3.9%. The strongest growth of the construction related craft occupations between 2011 and 2016 were bricklayers at 8.7% and painters & decorators 6.8%
Figure 1: The lack of negative growth in any of the Construction Craft Occupations between 2015 and 2016 is highlighted in this chart. Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.
Shortages are occuring in a number of niche areas, which is likely to increase if the sectors rate of expansion continues. Skills identified as high in demand include curtain wallers, glaziers, steel fixers, steel erectors, pipe layers, shuttering carpentry and shift managers & supervisors.
Following from the National Skills Bulletin, 2017
Key points for selected construction craft occupations
- In 2016, there were approximately 68,000 persons employed in the selected construction craft occupations, representing 3.4% of the national workforce
- Over 80% of overall employment was concentrated in construction
- Between 2011 and 2016, overall employment increased by 11,000, or 3.6% on average annually (compared to 1.8% nationally); employment growth was observed for most occupations, with the strongest rates for bricklayers (8.7% on average annually), painters & decorators (6.8% on average annually), carpenters & joiners (3.9% on average annually); the largest absolute increase was observed for other construction trades, carpenters & joiners
- Between 2015 and 2016, while overall employment expanded by 3.9% (2,600), the numbers employed in most occupations remained relatively static; the most pronounced increase was observed for bricklayers (in both relative and absolute terms)
- Most persons employed in each occupation were aged 25-54; one-fifth of employed painters & decorators and other construction trades was aged 55 or older, the most mature workforces
- The share of persons employed in the selected construction craft occupations who had attained higher secondary/FET qualifications (62%) and lower secondary or less qualifications (27%) was well above the respective national average share of 38% and 15%; the share who had attained third level qualifications (11%) was considerably below the national average share (47%)
- Employment in most occupations was almost exclusively male
- Most construction craft workers in each occupation were in full-time employment
- Construction craft workers were predominantly Irish-nationals; at just over one-quarter, the share of non-Irish workers was above average for plasterers and painters & decorators
- In quarter 4 2016, the overall unemployment rate for construction craft workers (aged 15-74) was 7.6% (compared to 6.7% nationally).
Job opportunities for construction craftspersons are primarily concentrated in the construction of commercial buildings at present (arising from the continued strong demand for office and industrial space to facilitate the expansion of activities of the FDI companies in sectors such as ICT, Pharma), but are also extending to the residential sector in Dublin and Cork.
DKM and SOLAS predict an additional 40,000 skilled craftspersons will be required for the construction industry by 2020, with demand particularly strong, in absolute terms, for carpenters and joiners and plasterers. Employment of most skilled construction craftspersons is expected to double, or almost double, recovering above 2015 levels, although remaining below pre-recession levels.
Employment growth for the selected construction craftspersons in recent years has been slow but steady. The volume of vacancy notifications has been increasing, particularly for apprentices. The transitions data point to a high volume of movement between employment and unemployment (with net gains for those moving into employment) and also significant movement between employers (at over 9,000). As expansion for these occupations was relatively small since 2015 (at 2,600), movements between employers is thought to be the main contributing factor relating to the almost 14,000 new job hires in 2016. Of these, almost two thirds held higher secondary or FET qualifications; carpenters accounted for the largest share of new hires.
In terms of supply, the current level of apprentice intake, particularly in wet trades (bricklayers, plasterers, painters and decorators, floor and wall tilers), is very low (double digits). As it takes four years for an apprentice to fully qualify, the training output is likely to lag behind the demand arising from the anticipated strong growth in residential development. This may lead to shortages in the medium term.
A considerable overhang of construction skills remains in the Irish labour market: although the number of construction craftspersons seeking employment through the Public Employment Service (PES) has declined in recent years, in April 2017 there were 8,500 job ready job seekers from these occupations collectively. It should be noted, however, that for the most part, these individuals had at most a Leaving Certificate. As a result, the availability of qualified tradespersons (i.e. NFQ 6 advanced certificate) may become an issue as the recovery accelerates.
Although there are no overall shortages in these occupations, there are niche areas where issues with recruiting are occurring. Future shortages are anticipated if the sector recovers as expected, particularly in the more labour intensive residential sector, and if the output from apprenticeships is not sufficient to meet demand. A shortage of skills has been identified for the following occupations:
- curtain wallers
- steelfixers, steel erectors
- shuttering carpentry
- shift managers and supervisors.