From bricks to clicks in construction

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The construction industry in 2020 offers a wider range of excellent career choices. While the traditional view of construction might have conjured a vision of a building site, the reality of 2021 has more opportunities to work with a tablet than a hammer nowadays.

According to Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation, the industry is increasingly built on ‘clicks’ as well as bricks. At present, there are over 147,000 people working in the construction industry, with an estimated 80,000 working on building sites around the country and globally.

“That means there are nearly 70,000 people working in construction in roles such as design, technologist, marketing, finance, and engineering. “Right now, there’s an Irish construction worker working in his office project managing the delivery of the underground transit in Riyadh. There are Irish construction employees online managing billion-euro projects across Scandinavia. There are creative employees designing brands and digital marketing campaigns for their companies as they work across the world.”

A young person considering their career options shouldn’t just write construction off as simply physical labour onsite, he advises: “Increasingly, our industry is digitising, opening up hugely varied careers for young people of all interests and abilities.”

Building a career with purpose

“When you join the construction industry in whatever role, you will build a brilliant career, but you will also have a purpose. Currently, the construction industry is shaping Ireland for future generations. The Government has turned to this industry to redefine Irish society, modernise our economy, and most importantly, help Ireland meet its climate change obligations. By working in construction, you are building your livelihood, your future, your community, and your society.”

Examples of the importance of construction work:

· Ireland needs to build 35,000 houses per year to house our young and growing population and to finally end homelessness.

· The Government is launching a national plan for infrastructure that will see over €115 billion invested.

· Over one million homes need to be retrofitted within the next decade to help Ireland meet its climate change targets and help save the planet.

· Ireland 2040 is a national plan for the industry to build cities, towns, and rural communities over the next 20 years.

· Continuing to build projects that make Ireland a destination for companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon Working in construction ensures a long-term career due to a strong 20-year pipeline of activity across the industry. In fact, 2019 saw the sector record significant growth, up 19% on 2018 to €2.24bn.

“Ireland needs homes, roads, hospitals, industrial buildings and data centres that need to be sustainably built.”

Since 2007, the Government and the EU has put in place restrictions on the banks to prevent future housing bubbles, he points out.

“In addition to the Government’s investment in infrastructure, these measures aim to prevent any boom-and-bust cycles that impacted the industry in the past. We estimate that we have enough work to keep an additional 150,000 employees working over the next decade at least,” Mr Parlon adds. Since 2013, the built environment sector has grown by approximately seven percent per annum – and with this growth comes more opportunities to progress your career, be it on the building site or in the boardroom.

“Currently, the industry supports over 332,000 people working in the economy making us the most important domestic sector. That means over €10 billion in wages flows to our employees and through the economy. That’s why the Government is keen to keep this industry operating safely during the Covid-19 pandemic – our economy needs ongoing construction.”

An additional positive about the industry is the complete commitment of companies to safety: “Over the past twenty years, incidents and fatalities are in steady decline as companies put their employees’ safety first. It is this commitment to safety that meant we were able to put in place protocols that protected our employees during the pandemic and prevented any significant spread of the disease. We are an industry of problem solvers and we always find a ‘safe’ way.”

 Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation.
Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation.

Opportunities for both genders

Tom Parlon also challenges the stereotype of the construction sector as a men-only domain.

“Since the industry began its recovery in 2013 the number of women has increased by 100%. While the numbers of women working on construction sites remain very low, with women overall making up about 10% of the industry. This growing number is still way too low and the industry is working collectively to increase this.” Female involvement in Architecture, Town Planning, Civil Engineering, and Production Manager positions all have relatively high levels of participation, which was maintained or increased between 2011 and 2016. The highest rate of female participation recorded across all 30 core or niche occupations was 21% for architects.

Five reasons to consider a career in construction

In summary, Tom Parlon lists five reasons why careers in construction offer such attractive prospects:

1. Your Building Career: from building site to boardroom With many professions, trades and crafts, you have many opportunities to build your career. In construction, there are many opportunities to work on-site, in the office or in the boardroom. There are thousands of sole traders also operating in the industry so you can be an entrepreneur.

2. Earn while you learn: Due to the apprenticeship model, there are many opportunities to earn while you learn on the job. This model means you can develop skills in several fields and ultimately work anywhere in the world! In addition, in construction there are nationally agreed hourly wage levels mandated by the Government; a new entrant general operative on a construction site gets €14.44 per hour. They are the minimum pay levels in the industry and in-demand trades can secure even higher wages.

3. Construction is global passport: Increasingly, construction is globalised and Irish people can be found working in offices, building sites and boardrooms around the world. Irish construction companies are considered the best in the world in several fields. Dublin has the largest share of data centres in the EU for example. As a result, our employees are sought after to project manage and build billions of euros of construction around the world.

4. The tablet is the tool: Building Information Modelling (BIM) now means that most construction is designed and managed by technologists. Projects are now rendered into 3D design and multiple teams around the world can deliver large scale projects. Technology is the most important tool in our industry now and this means that increasingly we are looking for students interested and conversant in technology with a creative streak.

5. Build your career while you build your community, economy and society: In construction, every hour you work adds to Ireland’s progress, it develops your community and it helps your community. The CIF is currently running a national competition for schools to design ‘a home for everyone’. We’re asking secondary school students to design a home that is affordable, sustainable and accessible to the elderly or people with a disability. The competition is based on the premise that our industry can shape society by delivering this type of construction.

“Finally, I want to really impress that construction has a career for you to be in on the building site, in the office or the boardroom. I hope that you will join me in this creative and dynamic industry so we can build a safe, sustainable Ireland for now and the coming generations.”


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