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NI construction recovery continues but skills shortages persist

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Emma Cowan on July 16, 2014 - 2:10 pm in News

Northern Ireland’s construction sector experienced its fourth successive quarter of growth, and skills shortages are continuing to be in evidence, according to the latest RICS Construction Market Survey (Q2 2014).

Most sub-sectors of the industry experienced growth in the second quarter of the year, according to local chartered surveyors, with the overall growth in workload rising at its fastest pace since the end of 2004.

Northern Ireland respondents reported skills shortages in relation to quantity surveyors, other construction professionals and blue collar workers.

RICS Northern Ireland Director, Ben Collins, said: “Northern Ireland chartered surveyors saw their workloads rise for the fourth quarter in a row, with evidence of growth broad-based in the sector, and private commercial work in particular seeing strong rates of expansion”.

“As the recovery continues, firms are reporting evidence of skills shortages emerging. We are also getting indications from local third-level education establishments that enrolment levels for construction-related courses are at low levels. With skills shortages emerging and the pipeline of professionals potentially hampered by fewer students enrolling on construction related courses, this gives us real cause for concern.”

“It highlights the need for the construction sector to think seriously about how to attract, retain and progress more people, particularly women, in the sector. Figures suggest that women make up just 11 per cent of the construction sector, with a mere 1.2 per cent working in manual labour trades. How can Northern Ireland expect to deliver some of the major projects required in the years ahead to upgrade our infrastructure if we are not using the expertise of over half the population?”

“Overall, whilst the latest survey gives real cause for optimism that the recovery is taking hold, it must be remembered that workloads are rising from historically low levels after a significant downturn. Local firms have also been growing their business outside of Northern Ireland, so whilst their workloads are rising, it does not necessarily mean that it is through activity in Northern Ireland.”

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