Attitudes towards construction industry leading to long-term skills shortages

3 May , 2019  

Over a third (36%) of Irish parents would not support their child’s choice to work in the construction industry, according to new research from the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

Of those parents who would not support their child pursuing a career in construction, the perceived ‘hard, physically demanding work’ was cited by half (50%) of respondents, with 41% of Irish parents concerned about a potentially ‘hazardous working environment’.

Overall, it was found that mothers are more likely to be supportive of their children working in construction, with over two thirds (68%) being supportive, compared to 42% of fathers. Of those in support of their children working in construction, entrepreneurial opportunities (27%) and ability to stay fit and active while working (27%) were amongst the top reasons. An additional 1 in 4 (24%) felt positive about the construction industry providing “a real solution to a real human need” and 22% cited the attractive salaries available in the industry.

The CIF, the ESRI and other representative bodies have all highlighted a growing lack of skilled employees in the construction industry. In 2016, CIF and SOLAS identified a need for an additional 100,000 workers to deliver on the Government’s commitments in housing and infrastructure delivery. To fill the yawning gap, the Government recently relaxed eligibility criteria to allow skilled workers from outside the EU enter the industry.

The CIF is working with Government and its agencies on three key areas to address skills gaps. They are upskilling the estimated 65,000 ex-construction workers on the live register, targeting circa 100,000 in the Diaspora and finally trying to increase the numbers entering into construction related third level course and apprenticeships. Recently, a CIF survey showed that 38% of its members had recently hired workers returning from the Diaspora.  The CIF will launch several campaigns focussed on promoting construction in primary and secondary schools this year.

Speaking at a model housebuilding competition, CIF Director Tom Parlon said; “A career in construction offers creative opportunities and rewarding work. The industry has changed and now provides creative, tech-driven and increasingly global careers for young people.  We are delighted that St. Mary’s Convent Primary School has asked its senior infants class to build model homes. The creativity and talent on show is really impressive. The enthusiasm these students show how attractive construction is to young people particularly before they are exposed to tired and outdated stereotypes about the industry.”   

Over 90 Senior Infant pupils at St. Mary’s Convent have been tasked with designing and building their own house, using materials including cardboard, clay and paper, with the completed houses being viewed by CIF Director General Tom Parlon in the school on Friday May 3rd. Each student will be presented with their own hi-vis vest, hard hat and personalised certificate of participation. 

Local Builder, Alan Hora said; “I’m delighted to be asked to view the houses built today by the kids here in St. Mary’s, Trim.  There’s some real talent for the future on show here today. This CIF research shows that while parents are open to their children entering the construction industry, there is still a view out there that all construction jobs involve difficult labour and a hazardous working environment. The truth is that a career in the construction industry involves a lot of creativity, problem-solving and the opportunity to think analytically. For young people that do enter the industry, there are a huge number of entrepreneurial opportunities available, as well as well-paid jobs on offer.”