Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

As UK bosses predict a ‘Brexodus’ of semi-skilled and unskilled workers Irish construction bosses say they urgently need:

30,800 carpenter/ joiners
15,200 electricians
13,900 plasterers/tilers
11,800 plumbers
7,800 bricklayers
9,400 painter decorators

By Bernard Purcell

Ireland is appealing to construction workers who moved overseas following the 2008 Crash to come home to plug its enormous skills gap. The 2008 banking and property collapse saw a huge fall in numbers wither working in construction or training to enter the trades.

So much so that Ireland’s Construction Industry Federation (CIF) estimates that 31,000 bricklayers and more than 15,000 electricians will be needed over the next four years to cope with Irish government housing and infrastructure targets.

It has just launched a website cifjobs.ie to entice back skilled workers and graduates who left in the last eight years. The CIF says the construction industry is set to grow by nine per cent – annually – between now and 2020.

It believes Ireland’s construction sector, which was devastated after the banking and property collapse, can bring an extra 112,000 jobs up to 2020 with an estimated €17.8bn worth of projects ready to go from next year Its own assessment says that over the next three years the industry will need, in all:

• 30,800 carpenters and joiners
• 15,200 electricians
• 13,900 plasterers and tillers
• 11,800 plumbers
• 9,400 painters and decorators
• 7,800 bricklayers

The Irish recruitment drive comes at the same time as recruiters in the UK fear that a so-called hard Brexit and tighter migration rules could lead to a loss of 214,542 unskilled and semi-skilled workers – 14 per cent – from this country’s own construction industry between now and 2020.


Consultants Arcadis warned that, post-Brexit, EU nationals could end up leaving the industry faster than they can be replaced. It predicted that 136,081 fewer EU nationals would come to the UK to work in construction.

Arcadis director of workforce planning James Bryce at the time of its report: “What started as a skills gap could soon become a skills gulf.

The British construction sector has been built on overseas labour for generations, and restrictions of any sort – be it hard or soft Brexit – will hit the industry.

“Missing out on over 200,000 people entering the workforce could mean rising costs for business, and much needed homes and transport networks being delayed.

“In recent decades, there has been a massive push towards tertiary education which has seen a big drop in the number of British people with the specific skills we need. If we cannot import the right people, we will need to quickly ramp up training and change the way we build.

“Be it hard or soft Brexit, we need to take back control of the construction industry. The likes of robotics and off-site manufacturing have never been taken as seriously as they should, but they could well prove the difference. So, too, could training. Working with schools and colleges is one way of taking control but this takes time. In the short term retraining and turning to the unemployed and underemployed could be a significant benefit to an industry under significant pressure.”


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