The building boom is back, if this call for construction workers is anything to go by 2 years ago

The building boom is back, if this call for construction workers is anything to go by

The boom is back, lads.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) is calling for the registration of apprentices to jump from 1,700 to 4,000 in order to meet Ireland's growing construction industry.

Apprentices are being targeted to play a key role in rebuilding the construction industry in order to deliver housing and infrastructure requirements.

Construction employment could rise over the 200,000 mark by 2020 based on analysis by DKM and SOLAS. However, Ireland's economic recovery may be hampered by a potential skills shortage within the construction sector.

CIF has set a target of 25,000 annual housing output by 2021. The Public Capital Programme outlines €43bn in activity including road, rail, water and broadband up to 2021 and the Government has committed to delivering 47,000 social housing units up to 2021.

Based on these targets, DKM and SOLAS predict that the sector will require 112,000 additional skilled people up to 2020 to deliver this, which includes replacing the 36,000 people who will retire from the industry during this period.

In order to be able to handle the needs of the construction sector in the future, the sector must attract people into and develop those already in the industry.

The CIF addressed the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills on Tuesday, detailing the legacy issues faced by the industry as a result of a decade of stagnation and under-investment.

The mounting challenges faced by the industry include the potential for foreign competitors to enter the Irish construction market to meet the increasing demand for labour.

Dermot Carey, CIF Director of Safety and Training, told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills: “We are facing an enormous challenge.

"We’re here today with a very clear warning; there is an urgent need for Government and industry to collaborate in attracting more people into the industry and to invest in construction skills training. The alternative is that we will fail to meet these targets, our housing crisis will continue and our infrastructure deficit will stall economic progress. This is a huge threat to Ireland and the long-term capacity of the construction industry.

“We need to address this by attracting people back into the industry from the live register, through our education system and by reaching out to those members of the diaspora with construction experience and upskilling our existing workforce. We also drastically need to address the apprenticeship system, to ensure that we have a steady stream of skilled employees to sustain the construction activity our economy and society requires."

The Irish construction industry has been hiring at a rate of 1,000 additional employees a month since 2013. The construction sector is the principal industry sector in Ireland for the employment of apprentices.

At its height, the sector employed nearly 27,000 (92%) of apprentices. Following the decline of the economy from 2008 onwards, this number fell to a low of circa 7,000 in 2013.