2024 will be the ‘Year of the Tradesperson’, recruiters predict

Construction professionals will be required to support the delivery of the huge volume of infrastructure and housing projects being planned over the next five years.

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If you’ve tried to book a tradesperson visit lately, you’ll know how hard a task that has become.

Ireland has a burgeoning trades industry, and with housing and construction needs continuing to rise, it seems inevitable that the construction industry will grow in coming years. There were approximately 16,500 registered tradesmen in Ireland at the start of 2023 — a number expected to have grown to 23,000 at the commencement of 2024. As the building boom continues at a rapid pace over the next few years, there will be an increased demand for tradesmen, such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters.

Ward Personnel is expanding its service offerings with the launch of a dedicated Management and Technical Division, to help with tackling the ongoing shortages of construction professionals in Ireland, as the wider construction sector is estimated to need up to 50,000 additional workers over the next five years. With offices in Dublin, Cork, Athlone and Poland, the firm is led by its founder and Managing Director, David Ward. Since its establishment in 2010 the company has expanded year on year and is now recognised as one of Ireland’s leading recruitment services providers in the construction and international sourcing sectors.

Having developed a niche in successfully sourcing and supplying high quality international candidates, the company opened its Polish branch in Lublin in 2021 to better enable the sourcing of quality candidates for client sites in Ireland and Western Europe.

David Ward, MD of Ward Personnel, says Ireland’s construction sector will grow by up to 50,000 additional workers in the next five years.

“We feel this expansion is a natural progression for us and enables us to be very well placed as a ‘one stop shop’ for our clients, to support them with all of their construction recruitment needs,” David Ward explained of the new Management and Technical Division. “As recently as last month, the Government published their interim report on the ‘Careers in Construction Action Plan’, which clearly demonstrates the systemic shortages of construction professionals that currently exist in Ireland.

“These professionals will be required to support the delivery of the huge volume of infrastructure and housing projects being planned over the next five years. As an industry, we urgently need to address this shortage and our Management and Technical team will aim to be part of the solution.”

By any measure, the coming year bodes very well for anyone looking at the construction sector as a career.

“Without a doubt, and we would add that construction is a vibrant and interesting business where it really is the case that ‘no two days are ever the same.’ Regardless of what kind of project you’re involved in, every day brings a new challenge as the build changes in its development.

“There are a variety of different occupations within the sector, added to by the important fact that there is very good money to be made in this business. It is a well-regulated and well-paid industry across all positions, from the so-called white collar office side to the manual on-site activity. Certainly, one would have to say that 2024 has all the signs of being a very exciting one for the sector.”

With offices across Ireland and in Poland, the expansion of Ward Personnel’s white collar service offerings will complement the existing core Labour and Trade and International Sourcing Divisions, enabling the firm to further strengthen its commitment to providing tailored recruitment solutions for its clients.

“This new dedicated division will recruit professionals for a broad range of positions across the construction industry, including roles in project and site management, quantity surveying, engineering, design and planning, health and safety, and administration.”

Having successfully recruited over 800 specialist tradespeople in the EU to relocate to Ireland, Ward Personnel is now expanding its European sourcing infrastructure to support construction professionals with their move to Ireland, and has also partnered with visa and work permit specialists, Future Direct, to support non-EU candidates with their move to Ireland.

The Ward Personnel Management and Technical Division will be headed up by Anthony Hurley, who has extensive construction recruitment experience, and had led the firm’s Munster Labour and Trades division for the last three years.

“There is a real shortage of construction workers in Ireland and in Europe, both in trade and professional staff. As a team, we will do everything we possibly can to offer the best service to our clients and candidates in what is a very dynamic and fast-moving environment. Our job is to find the talent that our clients need to deliver their projects, and that will be the key focus in everything we do.”

The company has a team of over 40 recruitment specialists managing a site workforce of more than 600 employees across approximately 200 sites throughout Ireland.

The full team of 10 staff from the firm’s Cork, Dublin and Poland offices met recently for a series of planning, training and team-building workshops focused on what actions are needed to continue to grow the division into 2024 and to support its expanding client base.

“It was a very productive few days with great ideas generation, improvements agreed, and focus on plans for 2024, including on some very big orders already in the pipeline from our valued clients,” said David Ward. “We are looking forward to a very busy 2024 and we have further expanded our team with fluent speakers in Romanian, Croatian and Ukrainian joining our core Polish team to give us the best possible chance to source skilled workers and tradespersons Internationally for our Irish construction and Mechanical and Electrical clients.”

Over a third of construction companies experienced an increase in turnover this year, but 77% cited access to skilled labour as their top concern, according to the Construction Industry Federation’s Quarter 2 Economic Outlook Survey. Access to a skilled workforce remains a concern in a competitive employment market for construction and other sectors. While there are currently almost 170,000 working in construction, far more are needed.

The government’s new Careers in Construction Action Plan estimates that 50,831 new entrants will have to be recruited into the construction sector from 2023-2030. A big challenge for the construction industry is the perception of the sector as an unstable career.

Kieran O’Donovan of Murnane & O’Shea, and chair of the Cork branch of the Construction Industry Federation.

“Many parents and careers guidance counsellors are pushing their children in different directions, so we’re doing everything we can to promote the great career opportunities on offer in construction,” said Kieran O’Donovan, chair of CIF Southern Region and managing surveyor at Murnane O’Shea, the Cork-based construction firm. “Working in construction offers huge choices. You can branch into facilities management, project management and there are huge opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses across the sector. Your skills and experience are recognised and in demand globally. In many other careers, you don’t have anything like the same opportunities to redirect into new pathways.”


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