Key points for selected operatives and related occupations
- In 2016, there were approximately 72,000 persons employed in operative occupations, representing 3.5% of Ireland’s workforce
- Almost two thirds of overall employment (46,000 persons) was concentrated in manufacturing (mostly machinery & equipment; food products; and pharmaceuticals)
- Between 2011 and 2016, overall employment in the selected occupations contracted by 0.8% on average annually (in contrast to a 1.8% increase nationally), or by 3,000 persons
- Over that five-year period, the strongest declines were observed for food, drink & tobacco operatives (8.5% on average annually, or almost 6,000 persons) and assemblers (7.4% on average annually, or almost 2,500 persons); in contrast, the strongest increase was observed for construction operatives (5.2% on average annually, or 3,000 persons)
- Between 2015 and 2016, employment expanded by 2.9% (equivalent to that observed nationally), or 2,000 persons; the largest increases were observed for routine (4,500) and construction (2,200) operatives, while the largest decreases were observed for food, drink & tobacco (3,000) and assemblers (2,200)
- With the exception of construction, at least three quarters of those employed in each operative occupation was aged 25- 54; almost one third of employed construction operatives was aged 55 or older, the most mature workforce among the selected occupations; in contrast, the youngest workforces were food, drink & tobacco and other process operatives
- The education profile of employed operatives was skewed towards lower educational attainment levels; the share employed in most occupations who had attained lower secondary or less qualifications was above the national average, with the highest for construction operatives (at almost a half); the share who had attained higher secondary/FET qualifications was above the national average for all occupations; in contrast, the share with third level qualifications was well below the national average for all occupations
- Approximately one quarter of employed food, drink & tobacco and routine operatives were non-Irish nationals (above the national average of 15%)
- Employment in most occupations was predominantly male and full-time.
In 2016, there was a high volume of vacancies for operative roles, particularly for process and construction operatives. However, the lack of employment growth in many of these occupations, along with a high turnover rate, indicates that vacancies were mostly occurring due to movements between employers.
There were approximately 7,800 job ready job seekers in April 2017 who were previously employed in operative roles, with the majority holding a Leaving Certificate qualification or less. A two-year NFQ level 5 apprenticeship for food and drink process operatives is currently in development.
Nonetheless, the DKM/CIF report on the Demand for Skills in Construction 2020, forecasts a rise of 6,400 in the numbers employed in construction-related operative roles by 2020. The upturn in the construction industry, and in particular, commercial building, has led to an increasing demand for labour intensive roles including ground workers, scaffolders, tower crane operatives and pipelayers.
Despite the lack of employment growth in these occupations and the high number of job ready job seekers, shortages of the following operative skills have been identified:
qualified CNC (computer numeric control) operatives: particularly in high technology manufacturing (e.g. medical devices and pharmaceuticals) and engineering; many unemployed operatives have been trained in traditional operative skills and lack the technical and digital competencies required for high technology automated manufacturing
production operatives: vacancies, particularly in the high-tech manufacturing/med-tech sector, are proving difficult to fill and given the high churn rates, it is possible that retention issues may arise as job opportunities in other sectors improve, resulting in a labour shortage for operative occupations ▪ construction operatives: ground workers, scaffolders, experienced tower crane operatives and pipelayers in line with the upturn in the construction industry.
construction operatives: ground workers, scaffolders, experienced tower crane operatives and pipelayers in line with the upturn in the construction industry.