Skills shortages mean construction companies are looking overseas for talent

22 Jan , 2020  

Construction firms are increasingly relocating professionals from outside Ireland and beyond the EU, to address skills shortages as the industry continues to grow strongly.

Tom Parlon, Director General, Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said: As the Irish construction industry has continued to grow over the last number of years, many of our members have reported difficulties recruiting construction professionals such as Quantity Surveyors, Engineers and Project Managers. It is quite an exciting time for the construction industry here in Ireland with a lot of work ahead and some hugely innovative projects in the pipeline. Luckily, this is making Ireland a very attractive place for construction professionals of other nationalities, such as Brazil and South Africa. This increasing diversity within the talent pool is a very positive thing for our industry and only serves to further our international reputation for excellence in construction.”

Stephen Hoban, Associate Director of Construction, Property & Engineering  with Azon Recruitment Group, said: “There is a huge demand for qualified construction professionals such as Quantity Surveyors, Civil Engineers and Project Managers right now in Ireland. Yet many companies are not actively engaged in recruitment from outside Ireland or indeed even further afield, outside of the European Economic Area. We at Azon, believe this is an opportunity missed. Many professionals from countries such as Brazil are coming here with master’s level qualifications in areas like Civil Engineering and working in shops as companies are put off giving them jobs by the prospect of having to deal with the visa process. Many companies wrongly assume that this will involve lots of paperwork and add to their workload, but it is actually very simple and much of the paperwork can be done by the applicant themselves.”

Glorence Makharinge, Site Civil Engineer with Marlet Property Group, who came to Ireland from South Africa  in 2017 said: “As a foreign national from a non-EEA countries or single market, I faced immense challenges securing opportunities in the construction industry although I hold a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering from a Malaysian University, engineering work experience and completed a master’s degree in Ireland.

“Upon completing my studies, I stayed in Ireland and obtained a 2-year work visa offered to international students after graduating in Ireland. Regardless, companies including recruitment agencies were shying away from proceeding with my application.

“After a year applying for engineering roles and not being successful, Azon Recruitment Group assisted me to obtain my current role with Marlet Property Group as a Site Engineer for College and Apollo House, a large commercial development in Dublin city centre.

“Marlet is sponsoring my critical skills work visa and I am handling the process myself; the visa application has been seamless and straight forward. Which begs the question, why are companies reluctant to fill the skills gaps by employing foreign nationals, is it a case of lack of information on the visa process?”

In order to address key issues such as housing and infrastructure delivery and maintain the growth, quality and capacity of the Irish construction industry into the future, many major companies are increasingly taking their talent search global.

While there has been a focus on bringing Irish talent with construction skills back from overseas in recent years and this has been a successful approach for many construction businesses, for continued growth, companies now increasingly need to access the global talent pool.

However, many Irish construction companies are unaware of how easy it is for them to employ qualified construction professionals such as Quantity Surveyors, Civil Engineers, Project Managers from abroad.

According to survey by Azon Recruitment Group, construction professionals from outside of Ireland make up less than 10% of most companies.

Over 70% of survey respondents said that their business was not actively engaged in relocating construction professionals from abroad to Ireland to fill their vacancies.

With over 90% of respondents unaware that there are government initiatives to assist companies in sourcing and relocating talent from outside the EU. Once such support is the Trusted Partner Initiative, which came into being in 2015 and streamlines the application process for the person making the offer of employment/employers/connected persons and EEA contractors when applying for Employment Permits. The benefits of the Trusted Partner Initiative are:

  • Fast turnaround of Trusted Partner registration applications
  • Status valid for 2 years
  • No fee
  • Reduced paperwork for every permit applied for under the scheme
  • Shortened employment permit application forms
  • Faster turnaround of Trusted Partner employment permit applications.

Another option for employers is to consider, Critical Skills Employment Permits, which have replaced the Green Card type employment permit. This Permit is designed to attract highly skilled people into the labour market with the aim of encouraging them to take up permanent residence in the State.

Eligible occupations under this type of permit are deemed to be critically important to growing Ireland’s economy, are highly demanded and highly skilled, and in significant shortage of supply in our labour market.

As of 1st January 2020, most professional occupations in the construction sector can now qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit. Technician and construction support occupations, such as Foreman, Architectural Technician and Construction Safety Officer, can qualify for a General Employment Permit.