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Report: The future skills we’ll need for the built environment sector

30 Sep 2020

Industries in the built environment sector need to hire more women and address a future skills gap, the Government has said.

Today (30 September), Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Skills Simon Harris, TD, and Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English, TD, launched a new future skills report.

It recommends measures Ireland will need to take in the built environment sector – including the architecture, construction, engineering and utilities industries – between now and 2030. In 2018, it says, this sector was responsible for €42bn of the country’s total output.

The Government report identifies skills needs to deliver on housing, infrastructure and climate action priorities over next 10 years, and outlines the demands these industries will face as a result of Covid-19.

Built environment industries are lacking women

The report was compiled by key members of the sector and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. They worked together to provide an analysis of the skills base, the existing education and training initiatives, international best practice and the challenges Ireland will be facing throughout the next decade.

One of its recommendations is to address issues about attracting new entrants. The sector will need to work harder to welcome women, the report says, as women comprise just 4pc of those employed in built environment occupations. These include carpenters, electrical fitters, construction workers and plumbers. At 21pc, architecture had the highest participation rate of women in built environment industries as of 2016.

Digital transformation is another key element. The relevant industries will need to “embed skills associated with technological change”, the report says.

It adds that industry growth and employment is “highly volatile”, however employment levels within the sector “should be sustainable” throughout the next decade.

The report estimates that 7.5pc of the country’s total workforce will be working in the built environment sector by 2030, amounting to almost 203,000 people. That would mark a decline from the figure of 205,400 people in late 2019.

A ‘proactive approach’ to future skills needs

Skills shortages are expected to be a problem in the future, particularly in civil engineering, quantity surveying, carpentry, glazing, scaffolding and steel fixing, among other areas. Harris said that overcoming this shortage will be important for the economy’s competitiveness.

“The National Skills Council, which falls under the remit of my department, is tasked with prioritising skills needs related to strategic national challenges and securing their delivery through the education and training system,” he said.

“Drawing on the findings of this report, the council, my department and the wider education and training system will do all it can to deliver on the skills needs identified across construction, engineering and architectural activities.”

English added that the report highlights “key drivers of the sector’s skills, talent and entrepreneurial needs”, spanning “technological adoption, enhanced productivity and the transition to a low-carbon economy”.

Tony Donohoe, chair of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, said: “As well as the important contribution to be made by the State and its agencies, industry itself will also have to ensure a proactive approach to enhancing the quantity and quality of its skills base.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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