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Labour Market Sector Profiles

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Construction Craft Occupations

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%

Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit
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).

Shortage Indicators

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
  • glaziers
  • steelfixers, steel erectors
  • pipelayers
  • shuttering carpentry
  • shift managers and supervisors.


Labour Market Research 18

These links are to well established sources of information used to review, evaluate and predict changes in our labour market.

Vacancy Overview 2016 - EGFSN 
Detailed analysis of labour market indicators, vacancy trends and difficult to fill vacancies from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (May 2017)
Update on Future Skills Needs in the Food and Drink Sector 
Food Wise 2025 projects significant growth over the coming years, with a target of 85% exports growth to €19 billion by 2025, as well as an increase of 23,000 jobs over the period. These targets are dependent on successfully addressing the skills needs of
Trends in Education and Training Outputs 
Monitoring Ireland's Skills Supply - A report by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) in SOLAS for the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs November 2016
Regional Labour Markets Bulletin October 2016 
A Report prepared by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS.
Future Skills Needs of the Biopharma Industry in Ireland August 2016 
This report reviews the supply of, and demand for, skills within the Biopharma Industry in Ireland up to 2020, with a specific focus on Biologics manufacturing as a growing sub-sector within the industry. It is estimated that 8,400 potential job openings
Vacancy Overview 2015 - EGFSN May 2016 
A report produced by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) in SOLAS for the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs contextualising 2015 vacancy data with what is occurring in the Irish labour market
Regional Labour Markets Bulletin 2015 
Annual report produced by the EGFSN which identifies variations in skills supply and demand across 8 regions (Border, Dublin, Mid East, Mid-West, Midland, South East, South West and West).
Monitoring Ireland's Skills Supply 
July 2015 report on those entering and leaving the Irish education system (primary, post-primary,further education and training, and higher education) spanning the ten levels of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)
Vacancy Overview 2014 - EFGSN 
The Vacancy Overview 2014 produced May 2015 by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS on behalf of the EGFSN, draws on data from newly advertised job vacancies in the following sources: DSP Jobs Ireland and IrishJobs.ie. The analysis focuses
Regional Labour Markets Bulletin 2014 
Report prepared by the Skills and Labour Market
Research Unit in SOLAS aimed at providing an analysis of the key labour market indicators for each of Ireland’s eight administrative
regions: Border, Dublin, Mid-East, Midland, Mid-West, South-East, South-
Next Last

Current Labour Market Info 4

These sites provide news of current events that relate to our evolving labour market.

IBEC Quarterly Economic Trends 
Download publication in PDF format.
SCSI Employment Opportunities & Skills Requirements for Construction and Property Surveying 2014-18 
New report April 2014 from SCSI outlining the Employment Opportunities and Skills Requirements for Construction and Property Surveying projected from 2014-2018
Shortage of craft/entry level staff in the Hotel Sector 
Hotels and guesthouses are experiencing serious difficulties recruiting suitably qualified craft/entry level staff - IHF Annual Conference 24/2/14
National Skills Bulletin 2015 
The National Skills Bulletin 2015 provides an overview of the Irish labour market at occupational level, drawing on a variety of data sets, which have been systematically gathered in the National Skills Database (NSD) since 2003.

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