Key points for selected operatives and related occupations
- In 2015, there were approximately 70,000 persons employed in operative occupations, representing 3.5% of Ireland’s workforce.
- Almost two thirds of total employment of operatives (45,000 persons) was concentrated in manufacturing (mostly food; machinery and equipment; pharmaceuticals; computer, electronic and optical products).
- Between 2010 and 2015, overall employment expanded by 2.3% on average annually (compared to 0.8% nationally); employment expanded in all occupations excluding chemical & related process operatives and plant & machine (contracting by 5.9% and 2.3% on average annually respectively).
- The strongest growth was observed for construction operatives (6.1% on average annually), followed by food, drink & tobacco and other process operatives (each by 5% on average annually).
- Over the five-year period, overall employment expanded by 7,600; the largest increases were observed for construction operatives, and food, drink & tobacco operatives (each by 3,000), while the largest decrease was observed for chemical & related process operatives (2,000).
- Between 2014 and 2015, employment expanded by 3.8% (above the 2.6% increase recorded nationally), or 2,500 persons; the largest increase was observed for construction operatives (1,500), while the largest decrease was observed for plant & machine operatives (1,000).
- At least three quarters of those employed in each operative occupation was aged 25-54; one fifth of employed construction operatives was aged 55 or older, the most mature workforce among operative occupations; in contrast, the youngest workforces were for plant & machine, and food, drink & tobacco operatives.
- The education profile of employed operatives was skewed towards lower educational attainment levels; the share employed in all occupations (excluding chemical & related process operatives) who had attained lower secondary or less qualifications was above the national average, with the highest share for construction operatives (at almost a half); the share who had attained higher secondary/FET qualifications was above the national average for all occupations; in contrast, the share with third level qualifications was well below the national average for all occupations.
- Almost two fifths of food, drink & tobacco operatives in employment were non-Irish nationals ─ one of the highest shares among occupations in the national workforce; the share was at or close to one fifth for construction, other process and routine operatives.
- The workforce of most occupations was predominantly male who worked fulltime.
While over 6,400 vacancies were advertised for operatives through the PES and Irishjobs.ie portals alone in 2015, there were over 9,000 operatives (mostly process and construction) seeking employment through the PES in May 2016.
Many vacancies are arising due to turnover, with frequent changes of employers observed in 2015 for all types of operatives, including food, process and construction operatives.
Shortages of the following operative skills have been identified:
- Qualified CNC (computer numeric control) operatives: particularly in high technology manufacturing (e.g. medical devices and pharmaceuticals) and engineering; many unemployed operatives have been trained in traditional operative skills and lack the technical and digital competencies required for high technology automated manufacturing
- Production operatives: vacancies, particularly in the high-tech manufacturing sector, are proving difficult to fill and given the high churn rates, it is possible that retention issues may arise as job opportunities in other sectors improve, resulting in a labour shortage for operative occupations.
While there is currently no shortage of construction operatives (in May 2016 there were over 1,000 job ready job seekers for this occupation), evidence points to an increasing demand for experienced tower crane operatives and pipelayers in line with the upturn in the construction industry.