by Aaron Willis, General Manager of GPD (Glounthaune Property Development)
While the volume of construction output has been rising steadily over the last number of years, the pace of building remains too slow. The 20% increase in total building and construction in 2017 can only be welcomed with caution, considering the volume of output in building and construction decreased by 53.8% in the last decade.
What’s more, the smallest sector in the business economy in Ireland in 2015 was construction, with a turnover of €15 billion. These figures spell out, in no uncertain terms, that this sector needs help.
Over the next 20 years, we will see unprecedented growth in the size of our population. Armed with this knowledge we must be prudent and consider, from a building perspective, how we can plan for this growth. There will, of course, be a number of individual, but complementary, strands required in order to execute any effective strategic roadmap aimed at managing this growth, and there will be plenty of challenges.
The country needs more houses. This is an unquestionable truth. And so, we need to put in place the supports, process, incentives and structures that will enable the goal of greater construction output to be achieved.
The report reveals that 108,720 were employed in the construction sector in 2015 – but less than 10 years before that we had a labour force of approximately 281,800 in the Irish construction industry. Clearly, something must be done about the fact that our building and construction workforce has depleted by so much. The recession hit, and people left the country – we must now entice to them to come home. Also, during the downturn, a career in construction was seen as a risky if not futile move – so less and less young people entered the field. It is now incumbent upon us to present trades and other building-related skills as an attractive career proposition.
We need a greater focus on trades in this country. Currently, the focus is almost exclusively placed on obtaining third level degrees and, while we absolutely need the quantity surveyor, the engineer, and the architect, we also need the painters, plasterers, and carpenters to carry out the work. I also think that the teaching of multi-trade courses would be of great benefit. If the tradesperson was skilled in several other areas in addition to his core trade then he or she would be extremely valuable – an employer might only have a few hours for a carpenter, but if they could also paint a wall, or tile a room, it would likely be a different story.