Building Future Skills

By Gerard Walker

Senior Economist, Future Jobs-Skills-Work Insights


The Demand for Skills in Ireland’s Built Environment Sector to 2030 


The Expert Group on Future Skills has just published a report which identifies the skills required by the Built Environment sector over the next decade. This is to deliver on ambitions around housing, infrastructural development, and climate change mitigation, as set out in strategies including Project Ireland 2040 and the Climate Action Plan. 

Notwithstanding the current impact of COVID-19, the report highlights how the sector will face consistent demands for its services and pool of skills over the next 10 years to deliver on these priorities for Irish society and the Irish economy.


Some 205,400 people were employed in the Built Environment sector in Ireland at the end of 2019. This includes those working in construction, architecture, engineering services and utilities. Employment in the industry has traditionally been highly cyclical. Significant cultural barriers exist for female participation in the sector with only 4% of those employed in core occupations being female. The sector involves a range of activities from planning to completing and maintaining or renovating built structures and infrastructural developments. Jobs include planners, architects, and engineers, tradespeople, utility providers, retrofitters, technicians, landscapers, and legal and administrative support staff.


The subcontracting of specialised skills is a feature of the industry. There is a high rate of self-employment and micro-enterprises in the sector, particularly among skilled tradespeople. These companies tend to be less productive than larger construction enterprises. Management practices within the built environment sector have traditionally been weak.


The central estimate for the numbers to employed in the sector in 2030 is similar to that in 2020. The outlook within the industry on its ability to meet this level of employment is pessimistic given employment attrition rates within the sector and the challenges of attracting new entrants into trades. The reskilling and upskilling of the existing workforce will also be necessary to ensure a more digitalised, efficient and climate neutral built environment sector. 
While the impact of COVID-19 on the sector is adding to uncertainty, it is anticipated that major drivers facing the sector will be consistent over the next decade, particularly the demands around housing, infrastructural development and climate change mitigation. 


In order to address the skills demand issues identified in this report, nine priority actions have been recommended, which are for the consideration by built environment stakeholders- across industry, education and training providers and government. These are:


1.    A co-ordinated campaign from industry, with support from education and training providers and Government, to promote careers in the Built Environment Sector (including a specific focus on encouraging more women to join the industry).

2.    Examine the scope for reforms to Built Environment education, training and qualifications including apprenticeship.

3.    Aligning skills within the Built Environment sector with technological change.

4.    Developing the skills to enhance the sector’s contribution towards climate change mitigation.

5.    Development and increased engagement with entrepreneurial and management skills training.

6.    Place the Construction Industry Register Ireland on a statutory footing (to improve standards and also promote the attainment of qualifications and therefore skills levels within the sector).

7.    Assess the merits of developing a “Skills Passport” for Built Environment activities, to facilitate the recognition of skills or competencies.

8.    Explore the use of the Procurement Process to stimulate skills development.

9.    Engage in ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the demand for Built Environment sector skills.


The full EGFSN report can be accessed HERE.


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