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Thursday 18 September 2014

Construction industry facing worker shortage

Published 14/10/2013 | 04:00

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Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

SCHOOL-LEAVERS who thought the bubble had burst on a career in construction or property should think again.

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The recovery in the housing market has seen a bounce-back in job opportunities – and there are not enough suitably qualified graduates to fill them.

There are also concerns of an emerging professional skills shortage in construction, amid reports of a government stimulus package in tomorrow's Budget to kickstart the industry.

Demand is growing for surveyors, who undertake a range of roles within the property and construction sectors, such as quantity surveying, project management and valuation.

The collapse of the building and property sectors five years ago triggered an understandable and dramatic fall in interest in third-level study in courses linked to these areas.

DISCIPLINES

CAO applicants switched to disciplines such as science and computing, that they or their parents regarded as offering a better chance of a job after college.

The result was that between 2008 and 2013, CAO first preferences for property and construction-related courses plunged from 552 to 195.

Between 2007 and 2011, employment in construction surveying plummeted by 60pc, while in property surveying there was a 43pc fall-off, but now there is a turnaround.

With the property market emerging from the slump, estate agents are already suffering a shortage of graduates, and in some cases are recruiting from the UK.

Increased regulation is an added factor in the difficulty in finding suitably qualified graduates, as estate agents can no longer rely on graduates from areas such as business or the arts to fill gaps.

The Property Services Regulatory Authority, set up in 2012, has imposed strict new rules on the qualifications required.

The shortages have been highlighted by the Society for Chartered Surveyors in Ireland (SCSI), which has members working in both construction and property sectors.

The graduates they need have typically completed a course run by an institute of technology and hold a degree such as property or construction economics or property valuation management.

In property, surveyors provide professional advice on the valuation, management, letting and sale of commercial – including agricultural – and residential property.

In the construction sector, surveyors advise clients on matters such as the cost of development, project management, carrying out building surveys and design consultancy.

As well as low enrolments on some courses, others have disappeared completely due to lack of interest in recent years.

RECRUITING

SCSI education officer, Zoe O'Connor said that the property industry "is gobbling up graduates" and some were looking to the UK to recruit.

She said that in the past one to two years, large estate agencies were employing up to 10 or 11 surveying graduates each, yet one of the main degree courses currently had just 10 students in first year.

"We are now getting calls from small firms that are experiencing recruitment difficulties", Ms O'Connor said.

While there was not the same sense of urgency on the construction side, "there are mutterings of concern", amid expectations of a stimulus package for the industry, she added.

"There are opportunities now for graduates and there certainly will be in four years' time" she said.

Ms O'Connor said surveying was a globally recognised profession that graduates who become chartered surveyors could practise internationally.

Irish Independent

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