Builders stall projects amid high costs and lack of skilled labour

Rising costs and sheer demand the 'defining challenges’ for the sector this year

Nearly two out of three construction companies polled reported struggling to recruit enough workers due to negative perceptions of the sector. Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Jon Ihle

An overwhelming majority of Irish construction firms say they can’t meet the scale of demand in the industry as rising costs and lack of skilled labour crimp productivity.

A survey of 300 construction companies conducted by Core Research found that 85pc thought rising costs and sheer demand were the “defining challenges” for the sector this year.

Nearly two out of three polled reported struggling to recruit enough workers due to negative perceptions of the sector and lack of career progression, with traditional skilled trades such as bricklayers and carpenters in short supply.

The result is that 81pc of builders are stalling one-off projects as a result of these stress on the industry, with the same proportion expressing doubt that they can meet the Government’s targets under the Housing For All plan.

The survey was contained in a wider industry report by Autodesk, whose CAD engineering design software is standard in the industry, which found that firms were investing in training staff rather than over modernising construction methods.

For example, 60pc of Irish construction firms said they were not planning on investing in new technology at all in the next five years, with just one in five looking at employing off-site manufacturing to cut costs.

"This report reveals the high availability of construction jobs in the marketplace but exposes the lack of access to a skilled workforce and the limitations that shortage is putting on the future potential of the construction industry,” said Brian Roche of Autodesk Ireland.

“Without the talent pipeline to match needed capacity, there could be implications concerning the industry’s ability to meet the demand within the sector currently, across residential and commercial building.”

Covid and Brexit-related supply disruptions pushed up the cost of building a home by 13pc in 2021. And price rises have only become worse this year due to the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis.

The cost inflation is already having an impact on housing starts, which have slowed this year, with new data from the Department of Housing showing a 43pc drop in new residential construction in the second quarter.