Builder skills dearth grows, according to new report

A skills shortage in all areas of construction has worsened in recent months, with a lack of carpenters and plumbers leading to a squeeze on project delivery, a new report has found.

A report by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) and PwC said a lack of electricians and civil engineers were also more severe than last year.

Construction industry figures have long warned about the strain on traditional trades, while third level chiefs have voiced concern that yearly placements in courses such as tiling have dropped to single digits. 

The report found 88% of chartered surveyors reported shortages of carpenters, up from 69% last year, while 87% experienced shortages of plumbers, up from 70%.

Some 87% had shortages of bricklayers, up from 75% last year, the report said.

PwC Ireland’s Joanne Kelly said: “Acute skills shortages in the Irish construction sector have persisted since the recession and continue to be the single biggest obstacle holding back construction output. 

New initiatives to attract and retain people, including more women, are needed.

Significant investment in education and training is required, as well as more co-operation between Government and industry, if the housing shortage was to be tackled, Ms Kelly said.

The report said tender price inflation and planning regulation issues are also holding back progress, with four out of five chartered surveyors saying they have difficulty accessing finance.

Some 45% expect profits to increase, down from 63% last year, the report said.

Just under a third of those surveyed said they are unprepared for Brexit, despite the deadline being postponed. Ms Kelly said: “With thousands of Brexit-associated jobs already secured in Ireland, Brexit should continue to bring opportunities. 

"Continued investment in key infrastructure projects, including regional development, is critical to ensure that all businesses in the construction industry can benefit from the opportunities that may arise.”

The Construction Industry Federation warned earlier this year of nine in 10 firms experiencing “severe difficulties” in sourcing tradespeople, especially in block laying, plastering, tiling, and painting and decorating. 

The CIF report noted “a severe lack of engineers, quantity surveyors, foremen, project managers, general operatives, ground workers and apprentices”.

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