Call for building sector ‘placements’ in public sector

CONSTRUCTION job numbers have more than halved since the boom, leading to calls for unemployed professionals to be given ‘placements’ in the public sector to help stop a brain drain.

Industry leaders yesterday outlined plans for unemployed architects and engineers among others to keep their dole while earning small incomes from internships with departments or local authorities.

Construction employment has fallen to around 150,000 from a high of 400,000, the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation was told.

A return to growth is being stalled by planning inefficiencies and bureaucratic delays in appointing builders, it was claimed.

Commenting on the fall in construction-related jobs, president Paul Keogh of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) added: “We believe that that level [of employment] will drop even further in the next 12 months.”

A further 120,000 jobs are at risk due to the economic downturn, it was added.

Construction industry leaders, including the RIAI, have been in discussions with government ministers in recent months in a bid to kickstart the sector again.

One proposal discussed with Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe involves graduates and unemployed professionals entering placements in the public sector. Plans being considered include unemployed architects, among others, being able to keep social welfare payments and work on government or local authority projects earning an extra few hundred euro a month, according to Mr Keogh.

The RIAI has estimated nearly half of its approximately 3,000 members are unemployed. Ministers have indicated the internships would also be open to a range of other professionals, including engineers, builders as well as solicitors.

The Construction Industry Federation of Ireland yesterday told the committee that building costs were down by some 30%.

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