Engineering & Construction Hiring and Employment Trends Q1 2018

February 8

2017 has been a record-breaking industrious year for the Construction Sector, which benefited from one of the biggest increases in overall activity that Ireland has seen in a long time. The industry saw a hiring increase of close to a 1000 jobs a month, which was generated by upsurges in activity, new orders and employment.

Dublin outperformed the rest of Ireland in terms of both its output and new orders, as the capital continued to drive growth, but this improving position was by no means restricted to Dublin. The rest of the country also reported increased expansions in activity, new business and employment.

The amount of Irish professionals who are moving abroad has decreased significantly, according to CSO, with the numbers returning to Ireland also increasing. Although this is not as significant, it is still an improvement across the Construction sector. The task of sourcing skilled Construction and Engineering professionals was heavily hit during the recession, but with increased numbers now returning, demographic changes are imminent. The overseas candidates that we surveyed said their reluctance to move here was mainly down to the salary and benefit packages being offered in Ireland, compared to cities such as Sydney, where a Safety Officer with three year’s experience is offered a six-figure sum. Having said that, the Irish-based candidates surveyed revealed they had benefited from a 12.5% or greater salary increase, with 47% having received an increase in their overall package over the past two years.

The demand for staff will only increase as we continue to move into 2018, as more companies will recruit to ensure that returning professionals are informed about the salary packages and career prospects being offered here. This will play a vital role in ensuring that supply is maintained.

Biggest Challenges

There are a number of challenges still facing the industry, with an increase in construction costs causing the greatest concern. Linked to this are the difficulties the industry has faced in attracting and retaining skilled technical workers. There is a chronic shortage of suitably skilled technical workers and professionals that are required to keep up with activity levels, and this is now hampering the industry’s ability to cater for the demand. Whilst the government has announced ambitious investment plans in the fields of education, infrastructure, housing and health over the short to medium-term, it is proving difficult to get access to trades, such as specialist sub-contractors and certain professionals.

These skills shortages are now manifesting themselves across both the main contractor and specialist sub-contractor organisations, as well as the design professions. Given that it takes four to five years to upskill construction professionals, and a similar timescale to train skilled craftsmen, it will take some time for the industry to remedy this shortfall, even with the rise in professionals being attracted from abroad. These shortages impact on the tender process of organisations and, thus, increase their overall cost per headcount.

There are also external influences that could impact the industry’s recovery in Ireland – primarily Brexit in the UK. Although Brexit has been announced, the impact it will have on the Irish economy as a whole, and the construction sector in particular, is still unknown. Brexit could prove to be a fortuitous period for Ireland if multinational institutions decide to relocate out of the UK and choose Ireland as their headquarters. This will result in a period of economic growth across the construction industry in the short term, as well as within the engineering space given that new buildings and staff numbers will be required.

Salaries & General observations

Retaining current talent is a high priority for organisations and has resulted in 29% of Construction and Engineering professionals receiving at least a 12.5% increase in their salary or even higher. Many companies are boosting their salary packages to include more medical benefits, vehicles, the opportunity to work from home in order to retain key staff and attract talented professionals from overseas who are used to such “extras”.

Candidates coming from the UK market are highly sought after here by Tier One Contractors, Sub-contractors and Consultancies alike. There is an expectation that more and more candidates will return as a result of Brexit, given the current uncertainty across projects in the UK. Project Managers with a Civil Engineering background are in high demand, as are all levels of Quantity Surveyors. Consultancies are actively looking for Professional Quantity Surveyors and Contractors for strong Quantity Surveyors with main contractor experience. Other roles in high demand are Civil / Structural Engineers, BIM professionals and Building Services Engineers.

Direct employment in construction is expected to increase from an estimated 137,000 in 2016 to around 213,000 by 2020. Organisations are looking for experienced Construction and Engineering professionals to join their teams, as the increase in Construction activity shows no sign of abating over the year to come.

Future Predictions

The Irish construction industry’s output grew to approximately €17 billion in 2017 and it is expected to reach €19.5 billion in 2018. All sectors of the Construction industry are now starting to contribute to Ireland’s economic recovery. The private sector revival, which was initially led by new commercial office space and office fit-outs in the Greater Dublin Area, is now starting to be seen in other major urban centres. It is predicted that increased activity in the Hospitality and Retail sectors will soar this year. The IDA continues to attract FDI and multinational companies from the High-Tech Industrial, Data Centre and Life Sciences sectors who are willing to invest in Ireland, and this will continue into 2018/19. Brexit will prove to have a beneficial impact on Irish construction across all areas, including the above mentioned Hospitality and Retail sectors.

Residential construction has traditionally represented a major component of the overall industry, but output has recently been well below the annual requirement, leading to significant accommodation shortages and increased rental costs. Thankfully, this important sector is now also showing signs of recovery, which has been prompted by Government initiatives, the increasing viability of residential construction and the easing of funding restrictions. These improvements should continue into 2018 and the industry will be able to reach the required output targets in the following years.

Despite the many challenges that have faced Ireland throughout this decade, there is a case for cautious optimism on the strength of the current construction statistics that are laid out above. There is a renewed confidence in the sector due to the commitments of major financial institutions, like JP Morgan setting up in Co. Dublin and Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s planned expansion, which could prove that Ireland is sitting pretty following the Brexit fallout.

This, in turn, will lead to significant opportunities for Construction and Engineering professionals in Ireland for the remainder of 2018, and indeed, for years to come.

Top 5 positions in demand

  1. Quantity Surveyors – Both PQS and Contractor
  2. Project Managers – Civil / Structural / Pharmaceutical
  3. BIM Managers
  4. BIM Modellers
  5. Health & Safety Officers

Our Engineering & Construction recruitment team are consistently ready and prepared to assist with hiring requirements for small and large projects. To view up to date salary trends for 2018 please see full survey comparison by sector here. For further information please contact Christine McCarthy on +353 01 661 0444 or email cmccarthy@lincoln.ie

About the Author

Lincoln Recruitment

info@lincoln.ie+353 (1) 661 0444

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