Construction chief warns staff shortages could stifle Government’s Housing for All plan

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Paul Hyland

The head of an Irish construction group has warned that the Irish building sector does not have the enough workers to meet the Government’s new housing targets.

Yesterday the Government announced its Housing For All plan which aims to build over 300,000 homes by 2030.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, chief executive of the Irish Plant Contractors Association Brian Coogan said the Irish construction industry does not have enough workers to deliver the plan.

“The big issue for us, when we talked about this last night, is where are we going to get the workers to build these houses? They simply are not there at the moment,” he said.

Mr Coogan said rising construction costs is another major issue for the industry and one which could stifle the Government’s ambitious plans.

“Firms are telling us the cost of employing people now has risen by 20pc to 30pc in the last year alone.”

Mr Coogan added that the country never truly had enough skilled workers to build all the projects that are needed.

He said there may be no other option but to source staff from overseas and to encourage Irish people who are working abroad to come home.

“We were lucky in the early 2000s when we could go to Eastern Europe and we could encourage people to come to Ireland to work in these sectors. After the last crash, a lot of those people left and a lot of Irish trades people left the country to work in Australia and Canada,” he said.

“We need a combined approach from Government where we have overseas recruitment fairs. Particularly in South Africa or Brazil. We need an incentive to encourage Irish trades people to come back to the country.”

Mr Coogan added that further investment is needed in apprenticeship schemes to upskill more homegrown talent.

He warned, however, that even with this investment, it would take these candidates at least four to six years to be fully trained.

The €40 billion Housing For All strategy aims to deliver 312,000 housing units by 2030.

There will be an average of 20,000 homes built per year, which Government hopes will increase to 33,000 and higher as the years progress.

This will include 10,000 social housing units, 4,000 homes for affordable purchase, 2,000 cost-rental homes and 17,000 private homes.

An estimated 27,500 additional construction workers will be needed to meet these targets.

The Government said aims to address this by recruiting more apprentices and plans is to enlist 10,000 construction apprentices per year.

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