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Labour Market Sector Profiles

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Operatives


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.

Shortage Indicators

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.


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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