Lack of skilled workers will delay vital building projects, warns Donohoe
Vital building projects such as new primary care centres face being delayed because there are not enough skilled workers in the economy, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has warned.
The minister is worried that the State will struggle to compete with the private sector for engineers and other key workers. He said the growth in large capital projects "is changing even more quickly than I had anticipated".
The problem is being made worse by competition for construction workers from other EU countries.
Mr Donohoe has flagged that the lack of skilled workers could also lead to projects costing more than was originally anticipated.
"The growing feedback that I have been given is that, for example, the electrical engineers whom we need to be involved in building our primary care centres and national children's hospital are the same ones for whom there is a growing demand in the building of data centres and other new facilities," he said.
The Government allocated an additional €1.4bn for schools, universities, public transport and other new projects. The total capital allocation for 2019 is €7.3bn.
The ministers told the Budgetary Oversight Committee that the demand for workers is resulting in changes to the prices being quoted for construction projects.
"While that is happening for good reasons, it is having an impact on the public finances, for which I am responsible."
Pointing to Europe, Mr Donohoe added: "Large companies, the skills and staff of which we need to deliver projects here, are looking at attractive big projects taking place across Europe and private sector projects within Ireland, and that is all going into the mix in the tendering decisions that they make.
"That is happening quickly now. For example, across Europe we will see big changes in how other countries respond to the climate change agenda. That will involve complex, intensive projects. Those needed to do that work are the same people we need to deliver projects in our country."
Mr Donohoe was responding to questions from Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon.
The Kildare TD said: "It is another sign of the further strengthening of our economy, that we have now created the environment where business is competing with the State for highly skilled staff for large-scale infrastructural projects.
"I am determined that Ireland catches up on the lost decade of investment in infrastructure but we must balance that demand with need for achieving value for money for the taxpayer, as well as delivering on key infrastructural projects around the country."