There are systemic problems within the Irish Construction Labour model.
Yes, there are many opportunities within the industry – but as a recruiter working closely with top tier to small sized contractors, there is a big need for sustainability within the construction labour model; we have a burning desire for change.
So, why is this?
Reliance on an aging workforce:
Here in Ireland we have symptoms of an aging workforce. The younger construction employee pool is becoming smaller and smaller. From speaking to graduates and junior jobseekers, it is clear that we need to change the narrative of what the construction sector represents in order to attract younger people to the industry, such as engineers from digital and technology companies.
In addition, we also need to change the old perception that a job within this industry means a daily struggle on cold, wet building sites. During college, students are spoiled for choice; the benefits of working in large tech companies such as Facebook and Google create an unrealistic expectation that all jobs need free booze on Fridays and game rooms to be enticing – this is not the case.
Still, construction companies do need to develop their graduate programmes in order to attract key talent at graduate level. During the recession, the registration for apprenticeships decreased significantly, and we are now left with the problem of replacing the headcount that was lost, left or retired during the recession. Further, construction businesses also need to work with apprentice schemes to ensure there is a steady flow of young people entering apprenticeships.
Wellness is an important aspect within the work environment which is trending lately. There are a number of Irish companies who have already latched on to this idea of incorporating wellness into their company culture. The rest of Europe seem to have progressed here too, successfully incorporating wellness initiatives into their business models. It is important for Irish contractors to be sustainable and to create community wellness within their companies.
Irish contractors also need to create positive spaces, and could invite key note speakers into their office to discuss improving the culture within their companies. This could then be highlighted on their website, marketing campaigns and in interviews, and presents another opportunity to attract younger people into the construction industry.
There also needs to be an emphasis on digital technology within the construction industry. This will enable the industry to drive the change in the right direction. Often, QS’s are afraid of purchasing new technologies and to implement changes in this field, despite evidence that the increased use of BIM Technologies has assisted construction projects previously. Embracing small changes – even implementing iPad’s on site to site engineers – would bring a more modern mindset to the workforce.
Put simply, we can’t move forward unless we change the model.
All parties need to be working collaboratively to initiate a transformation of the Irish construction industry.