Slight growth forecasted for local construction sector but skill shortages still a problem

Northern Ireland will see growth of 0.8 per cent from 2019 to 2023 and 2,500 new construction workers will be needed according to the annual Construction Skills Network (CSN) report, the UK’s most comprehensive and up to date sector forecast.

The lack of Government in Stormont has been impacting both the economy and the construction sector in Northern Ireland, directly through delays in signing-off public projects and indirectly through loss of confidence within the private sector. However, construction output is predicted to grow 0.8 per cent from 2019 to 2023, mainly driven by strong underlying demand for social housing and repair and maintenance work. Recent announcements and forecasts are heralding that the construction sector may already have entered a period of recession. It is hoped that this is temporary, and the longer-term forecast will still hold true. However, this will be dependent on unpredictable issues such as Brexit and Northern Ireland governance arrangements and the ability of our civil service to progress the projects that are vital to Northern Ireland’s infrastructure.

The CSN report also forecasts that employment in the Northern Ireland construction industry will remain steady meaning that 61,000 to 62,000 will be employed in the industry between 2019 and 2023 with a slight increase in demand for some managerial and professional occupations. This forecast relates to the level of employment to meet the needs of construction projects completed within Northern Ireland. However, it cannot forecast the additional demand from Northern Ireland companies who are now operating throughout the UK and taking the Northern Ireland workforce with them.

Employment may be steady, but skills shortages are still a concern. A recent survey (Employer Attitudes and Motivations Regarding Learning and Training) showed that the main business challenge faced by respondents in the Northern Ireland industry was finding the most suitably skilled staff (67 per cent). With the impact of Brexit, and an ageing workforce it is essential that the industry attracts, trains, and retains new talent wherever it can be found. So how can CITB NI help?

CITB NI are focused on skills and training and we work with contractors and professional and trade bodies to support training initiatives and skills development for the overall benefit of the industry. In terms of addressing the potential for skills shortages in the future, we approach this in two ways:

  • Encouraging new entrants to the construction sector through careers promotion work and entry level training interventions.
  • Working with industry to upskill those already employed in the industry to encourage progression of the individuals.

We encourage CITB NI registered employers to undertake training and make use of our grant scheme to help improve skills within their workforce. The CITB NI training grant scheme offers direct grants to registered employers to support a wide range of training and qualifications for employees working in Northern Ireland. The training grant funds are easy to claim. Employers are encouraged to claim online via the website

We support other training which is delivered via our Mobile Training Unit, as well as Scaffolding Courses, VET 360 virtual environment training and specialist short courses often delivered in partnership with industry.

CITB NI also promotes construction to the younger generation to help them consider construction as a career option for the future. Through careers fairs, exhibitions, a website and a team of construction ambassadors we provide information on the vast range of careers available within construction.

For further information on what we can do to help you and your construction training, log on to, like us on Facebook or follow the discussion on Twitter @CITBNI and LinkedIn

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