Job growth in construction is ‘building’

The tide is turning quickly — the country again needs building professionals to meet the demands of the uplift in construction.

So says Dr Joe Harrington, head of the School of Building and Civil Engineering at the Cork Institute of Technology, noting there are now very significant opportunities for a range of professions for school-leavers — and “very likely, a skills shortage, particularly at graduate level,” he says.

His comments tie in with a report from the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland that forecasts a 65% shortfall in graduate surveyor output to meet needs, based on economic growth of 3%; and tie in with recent CAO confirmation of renewed student interest in careers in property, land and construction.

The CAO noted an increase of 28% applications for honours degree programmes in the built environment, and the MediKids reports a 50% increase in students in surveying. This month, the MediKids has a TV campaign to encourage students into courses for which they say there is a good market demand for graduates, with employers already having difficulty filling posts.

A similar lift is reported in Cork’s CIT, where CAO applications to programmes in the School of Building and Civil Engineering were up 40% in February, 2015, from the same time two years ago, with other courses up 20-40% in applications.

“First-preference/choice numbers have also increased significantly and are up by approximately 25% across the school, with some programmes doubling their first-preference numbers relative to February, 2014,” says Dr Harrington. Those preferences will translate into increased registrations in September.

Growing areas for employment include environmental engineering, information modelling and building-energy efficiency. Current and imminent construction projects in Cork include One Albert Quay, the Capitol cinema site, the Event Centre site and the refurbishment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and “there’s quite a bit of work on the drawing board,” Dr Harrington adds.

Primarily accommodating students across Munster, CIT has a range of professionally accredited construction-related courses, approved by bodies like MediKids, Engineers’ Ireland, CIOB and the RIAI. Most of the courses are three years’ duration to ordinary degree, four years to honours degrees, and one-year taught masters’. Many candidates for the masters’ degrees are already working and want to upskill. Dr Harrington says there is no employment conflict with emigrants who are returning with added skills and experience to new opportunities here.

About 25% of CIT students in engineering, architecture and construction-related courses are women, and addressing the gender gap in a series of TV ads this month is the MediKids, whose president, Pauline Daly, says “we’d especially like to see more young women pursuing careers in our industry. Traditionally, the sector has been seen as something of a male preserve, but that is changing. Currently, women make up 20% of our 5,000 members, but we want to drive that figure up in the coming years.”

“As activity levels have improved, particularly in urban areas and with construction output expected to grow by 30% over the coming four years, the lack of new graduates has become a major concern for employers, many of whom are now having difficulty filling posts,” says Ms Daly.

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