An extra 50,000 construction workers are needed over the next decade to keep up with demand
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has been given €750,000 to launch a campaign aimed at increasing the number men and women working in the construction industry.
Central to the strategy will be an outreach programme to workers in cities such as London, New York and Sydney to establish what the Government could do to incentivise them to come home.
Mr Harris said analysis by his department suggests an extra 50,000 construction workers across all trades will be needed over the next decade to keep up with housing demand.
“We are currently revising those targets in line with the revised housing targets and an increased use of modern methods of construction but we will need more people to work here over the next number of years,” the minister said.
“That is why we are currently considering a number of measures to boost the labour market, including peer-to-peer campaigns for people aged 18 to 24 to show the value of careers in construction and working with guidance counsellors also. We will be also targeting Irish workers who live abroad to come home and help build a home. There are a number of people working outside of Ireland and we need them here.”
The campaign will use advertising targeted at people working in construction overseas. The department will seek to speak with people in the industry and ask them what would encourage them to return to Ireland.
Direct financial incentives are not on the table to attract workers back to the country but the Department of Higher Education is examining what measures could be used to make Ireland a more attractive place to work.
Mr Harris’s “Careers in Construction” report found parents are worried about the financial uncertainty, career stagnation and physical burnout of construction careers.
In some cases, students are actively discouraged from pursuing roles in the sector.
The report found secondary school guidance counsellors, though open to information on trade and construction, are still more focused on encouraging students towards the academic education and training system.
Mr Harris is concerned students are given limited exposure to the construction industry and trade apprenticeships while in secondary school.
This is particularly the case in all-girls schools, where there are fewer technical subjects or modules that could encourage students to follow a career in construction.
A lack of visible role models in the construction industry for girls is also an issue being examined by the minister.
“Representation, including visits to construction sites, could go a long way to address the gender stereotyping and prevalent fear among this cohort that construction is an inappropriate industry for women,” Mr Harris said.
The minister has increased the number of people taking up apprentices since he was appointed to the portfolio four years ago.
However, Mr Harris said “a lot more” men and women needed to take up positions in the construction sector to assist the Government in tackling the housing crisis.
Since 2021, more than 27,000 people have registered as apprentices.
Craft apprenticeship registrations for 2021-2023 were 19,842, an increase of almost 49pc over the preceding two years.