Building boom endangered by skills shortage

A recovery in Northern Ireland’s construction industry is being hampered by a lack of skilled workers, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in its latest quarterly figures report.

While the building trade in the Northern Ireland region has experienced the sharpest rise in activity – up by 23 per cent in the three months to June – the FMB says the political impasse at Stormont is creating more uncertainty within the sector.

Comments Maire Nawaz, director of FMB NI: “Although these figures show signs of recovery in the NI construction industry, the concern regarding skills shortages continues to loom large over our industry. Almost half of construction SMEs are struggling to recruit adequate numbers of bricklayers, with others finding it increasingly hard to hire carpenters and joiners, site managers and supervisors.

“In terms of work, there is no longer a huge chasm between the NI construction industry and the wider UK construction industry. However, there is evidence to suggest that we are still losing too many of our skilled tradespeople to the mainland.

“I hope this problem dissipates as the NI construction industry strengthens and grows but in the meantime, the lack of skilled workers could get worse before it gets better. In addition, the impasse at Stormont is having a negative impact on the sector and is a great cause of concern for all those involved in the construction industry. The NI Government needs to agree a way forward and work with the industry to ensure adequate capital and infrastructure spending is put in pace.

“We also need to find a way of attracting enough people into a career in construction. We’re keen to work with ministers and other bodies to ensure this happens and prevent the lack of skilled tradespeople endangering the sector’s potential for future growth.”