There are approximately 21,000 people employed in Construction Professional and Associate Professional Occupations. The sector expanded very marginally between 2011 and 2016, just 1.9% annually, a rate close to the national average. Looking at just 2015-16 there is evidence that the sector is picking up, albeit inconsistently across occupations. Overall employment growth for the year was 6.1%, but the Architects & Town Planners and Civil Engineers occupational categories declined. On the other hand the architectural technologists, construction project managers & surveyors occupational category saw a significant annual growth rate of 53%.
Figure 1: Data from National Skills Bulletin, 2017. SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit.
The above chart highlights how divergent the effect of the recovery of the construction industry on different professional occupations has been, with some undergoing heavy growth while others decline marginally.
Following from the National Skills Bulletin, 2017
Key points for selected construction professional and associate professional occupations
- In 2016, there were approximately 21,000 persons employed in the selected construction professional and associate professional occupations, representing 1% of total national employment
- Approximately 60% of overall employment was concentrated in professional, scientific and technical activities (mostly architectural and engineering), while a further 14% was in construction
- Between 2011 and 2016, overall employment in the selected occupations expanded (almost 2,000, or 1.9% on average annually), similar to the national average rate; the strongest growth was observed for architects & town planners (4.4% on average annually) and construction related technicians (4.1% on average annually); in contrast, employment of civil engineers remained unchanged
- Between 2015 and 2016, while overall employment expanded by 6.1%, this amounted to an additional 1,200 persons; the strongest increase (in both absolute and relative terms) was observed for the combined group architectural technologists, construction project managers & surveyors; in contrast, decreases were observed for civil engineers, architects & town planners (although small in absolute terms)
- Almost 90% of all employed construction professionals were aged 25-54; the share was almost 75% for construction associate professionals
- Approximately 95% of construction professionals in employment were third level graduates; the corresponding share was 65% for construction associate professionals
- Employment in most occupations was predominantly male; one third of employed architects & town planners were female, the highest representation of females
- The majority of persons employed in each occupation worked full-time and were Irish nationals.
The outlook and prospects for the construction industry is the most positive in a decade. A recent DKM/CIF report44 forecasts that the construction industry will experience strong growth in activity over the medium term, with the overall volume of construction output predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 9% over the period 2016 to 2020, and employing an estimated 213,000 workers, almost an additional 80,000 persons on 2016 levels.
The significant number of additional workers (including construction professionals and associate professionals) will be required to deliver the ambitious targets set out in the Government’s €42 billion Capital Programme (investment in social infrastructure (schools, hospitals) and productive infrastructure (the national and non-national road network, water treatment services)); the Rebuilding Ireland Strategy, and the increasing demand from foreign direct investment companies for buildings (particularly office space).
Recent job announcements in the media supporting or expected to increase the volume of construction related investment, and hence the demand for skilled construction workers (although temporary jobs), include Apple, Cook Medical and Microsoft (data centres), Shire and Alexion Pharmaceuticals (biologics manufacturing plant), West Pharmaceuticals (manufacturing medical devices plant), Intel (manufacturing semiconductor technology facility).
Although strong employment growth is forecast for this sector, this relates primarily to skilled tradespersons, operatives and labourers. The five-year growth to 2020 for managers, professionals and associate professionals is expected to be in the region of 1,600 persons. Despite significant increases in employment for this sector since 2011, these selected occupations grew by 1,900 during this period.
The reduced intake in higher level education due to the recession has led to a continued fall in the output from construction-related courses, particularly impacting NFQ level 7 and 8 courses, with overall output declining by 50% to 1,700 in 2015. The number of graduates from level 8 civil engineering courses in 2015 amounted to 160, compared to 350 in 2011. In 2015, there were over 190 awards in surveying; 150 were in quantity surveying/construction economics and a further 20 in building surveying. The supply of skills from the live register is also tightening; in April 2017, there were 75 job ready civil engineers, 85 architects and 40 architectural technologists with NFQ level 8 or above qualifications seeking employment.
The reduced supply of skills for these occupations is expected to impact the labour market as demand for these skills increases. Shortages of the following skills have been identified:
- construction project managers: (with relevant experience and specialist knowledge)
- quantity surveyors, building services/structural/site engineers.