Building and Construction has a dual role the economy:
- It directly provides 96,300 jobs across a variety of occupations and levels of skill, accounting for 5.2% of total employment and 6.4% of GNP. An additional 48,000 indirect jobs are provided through the sector. (Forfás, July 2013)
- It provides and maintains the physical infrastructures and buildings on which other industry sectors and society depends.
The construction sector is made up of over 40,500 enterprises, significantly less that in the boom time years. However, the overall company size profile remains roughly the same. The majority (96.7%) of construction companies are small businesses, employing less than 10 people.
Like most areas of work, it’s only when we do a little research that we begin to unravel a surprising range of both interesting and rewarding careers. A construction career really depends on how much physical or technical work you want and the level you decide you want to work at.
Construction projects are varied and can include house building, building of schools and hospitals, water supply networks, transport systems, and power stations. When something is under construction or in the pre-planning construction stage, it is referred to as a building project.
Careers in construction can be divided into four main areas:
- Construction Craft Workers (Operatives, Labourers)
- Trade Craftspeople (Four year apprenticeships)
- Engineers and Surveyors
Construction Craft Workers
Over 40,000 people work as general operatives in the construction sector. In the past, these jobs were referred to as 'labourers' and regarded as unskilled roles. Today, these on-site jobs have become more specialised - Steel workers, Pipe layers, Scaffolders, Heavy goods vehicle drivers, Machine operatives, Asphalt layers and Demolition workers - all require a good deal of training and skill.
Training for construction craft workers is sometimes offered ‘on the job’ but an approved, certified course is becoming the norm. In order to work in any capacity on a building site you must have a Safe Pass Certificate.
The slow down in the sector resulted in little employment for general operatives in this area and also made it very difficult to get apprenticeships. However, this situation is now improving and there are many opportunities for apprenticeship now becoming available.
There are a large number of Trade Craftspeople operating in this sector. Trades in the industry divide into 'wet trades' (trades which use dry building materials that are mixed with water e.g concrete, mortar or plaster) and 'dry trades'.
- Brick and Stonelayer
- Construction plant fitter
Craftspeople in these trades have been trained as apprentices under the Designated Crafts Scheme with SOLAS (formerly FÁS).
|Apprenticeship is the recognised means by which people are trained to become craftspeople in Ireland. Explore our comprehensive area on Apprenticeship here.
Engineers & Surveyors
The construction sector employs many different engineering and surveyor roles. Civil, structural, building services, environmental and geotechnical engineering roles are required, as well as specialist areas, such as acoustics engineers. Civil engineers evaluate, research and manage major civil engineering schemes, while building surveyors examine properties and advise on any defects.
Useful Career Sheets from STEPS to Engineering [pdf files]
The main employers of engineers are consultants, who advise clients, develop designs and oversee projects, and contractors, who carry out building work. Engineers are also recruited by developers and by large clients, such as retailers and local authorities.
What on earth in surveying? Video explaining what working in land, property and surveying is all about.
Surveyors are highly trained and experienced professionals that are employed throughout the construction, land and property sectors. They work across all aspects of the built and natural environment for a variety of employers, including auctioneers, valuers, developers, construction firms, facilities management, as well as county councils and state agencies. They generally specialise in one of the following areas:
- Quantity Surveyor – advises on the costs of developing all types of buildings and infrastructure.
- Building Surveyor – carries out building surveys and provides management and design consultancy services.
- Geomatic Surveyor – maps the built and natural environment to provide accurate spatial data which facilitates planning, development and conservation. Geomatics is currently one of the most in-demand technical skills in the world!
- Mineral Surveyor – provides expertise in the full life cycle of mineral development.
Video: Geomatic Surveying ~ SCSI
- Residential Agency Surveyor – provides professional expertise in the valuation, management, letting and sale of residential property.
- Commercial Agency Surveyor - provides professional expertise in the valuation, management, letting and sale of commercial property.
"Geomatics is currently one of the most in-demand technical skills in the world!"
|For more information of types of surveyors click here.
While the property sector has contracted in recent years, it is anticipated that there will be greater opportunities for graduates. Many large property agencies have graduate programmes which provide excellent training in all aspects of property – from commercial (offices, retail, industrial), residential sales and lettings, professional services and property management.
In the future, graduates will enter a far more regulated property and construction sector and high standards of education and qualifications will be a prerequisite for employers and clients in the public and private sectors. Professional membership of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland is a sign of high standards of professionalism in the construction, land and property sectors.
Some of the many college courses available include an industrial placement year, when students can apply their learning in the workplace, gain practical experience and forge industry links. Colleges include DIT Bolton Street and the Institutes of Technology.
Architects are the professionals in the sector who plan and develop designs for construction projects. Designing a building involves many steps:
- Visiting and surveying the site;
- Discussing with the clients what kind of building they want;
- Developing a preliminary design for the building and refining it to make sure that it meets the clients' needs and budget and complies with the regulations;
- Applying for planning permission;
- Preparing detailed drawings and specifications;
- Obtaining quotes from builders;
- Administering the contract between the client and the builder
- Checking that the building is being constructed in accordance with the drawings;
- Making sure that payments to the builder are in order.
Once qualified, the variety of work open to you as a professional architect is wide ranging. You can work for yourself, or as part of a team in a small or large private practice. The architectural section of Government Departments, Local Authorities, Semi-State or commercial organisations also employ architects. You may wish to specialise in certain types of building, or concentrate a particular aspect of the job, such as design, technology, architectural conservation or project management, depending on your own interests, abilities and opportunities. Some architects choose academic careers in teaching and research.
[See also The Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI) here for detailed information on becoming an architect or an architectural technologist in Ireland.]
Another key role is the much sought after construction manager who plans and manages the building operations. The construction of any major building project is a feat of co-ordination and involves managing a range of people with specialist skills. Many construction managers progress through the ranks from a starting point as an apprentice, with further education and training along the way.
In general, construction professionals have spent a number of years in third level education and must meet the specific requirements of their particular professional body.
Many people work as Technicians alongside the professionals in the building and construction sector. Technicians carry out duties under the supervision of their respective professionals. Job roles include Building Technician, CAD Technician, Structural Design Technician and Construction Technician among others. Technicians are likely to have taken a course in 3rd Level (Level 6 or 7) in one of the IT Colleges around the country.
Planners are involved in making long and short-term decisions about the management and development of cities, town, villages and the countryside. Most Town Planners work in the public service with local authorities but many have consultancy roles within the architecture and construction areas.
Planning is a broad area of work that requires many different skills. Some planners specialise in a particular area of work. Key planning activities include:
- Researching and designing planning policies to guide development
- Developing creative and original planning solutions to satisfy all parties
- Consulting with stakeholders and other interested parties and negotiating with developers and other professionals, such as surveyors and architects
- Assessing planning applications and enforcing and monitoring outcomes as necessary
- Researching and analysing data to help inform strategic developments
- Designing layouts and drafting design statements
- Using information technology systems such as CAD (computer-aided design) or GIS (geographical information systems)
- Attending and presenting at planning boards and appeals and at public inquiries
- Keeping up to date with legislation associated with land use
- Promoting environmental education and awareness
- Writing reports, often of a complex nature, which make recommendations or explain detailed regulations
DIT runs a diploma in Planning and Environmental Management which trains technicians in urban and rural planning.
Getting into the sector
In order to achieve the high level of quality required in the construction industry it is important to produce highly skilled personnel who are trained to adapt to new technologies. The industry is now very much management oriented and most people working in construction have third level degrees.
Opportunities in the Building and Construction Sector will remain into the future, especially for those with specialist and professional skills and qualifications.