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Northern Ireland Construction Industry Set For Further Growth

Titanic Quater, Belfast

The future for construction businesses in Northern Ireland was confirmed as healthy and buoyant with the publication of new ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council for the construction industry, research on future construction projects in the Province...

The new statistics from the Construction Skills Network illustrates that construction output in Northern Ireland is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 4.3% between 2007 and 2011. The public non housing and commercial sectors will drive growth as Government invests in improving health and education facilities, and as work accelerates on the Titanic Quarter, Victoria Square and Royal Exchange projects.

The forecasts for industry growth are influenced by strong Government spending. The Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI), published by the Strategic Investment Board in December 2005, provides details of Government expenditure of up to £16 billion over the next 10 years.

The outlook is also optimistic for the infrastructure in the Province. Roads and water should see an increase in activity over the next few years as Investment Strategy funding is spent. Greater investment in affordable housing should fuel a public housing construction boom during the forecast period with public housing output forecast to rise by around 5.2% on average each year.

In order to help firms to take advantage of this future demand CITB Northern Ireland, a partner in ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council responsible for delivering construction training and skills provision across the UK, is urging employers to consider their approach to training and retaining staff by outlining the business benefits and the support available to them.

In a recent survey undertaken for CITB Northern Ireland by Pricewaterhouse Coopers 31% of construction firms had experienced recruitment difficulties primarily because the applicants lacked the skills they needed. Addressing the industry skills shortages is essential to deliver the future infrastructure projects.

Inadequately trained workers often make expensive mistakes on-site, such as errors ordering material, skills shortages and on-site accidents. ConstructionSkills’ Training Campaign aims to reduce these business costs whilst also providing employers with the skills they need to take advantage of the business boom.

Further impetus for employers to train also comes from the recommendations in the Leitch Review of Skills, published on 5th December last year. The report further endorses the sector-based approach to skills delivery that has been established with the formation of Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) since 2002. This means construction employers, through ConstructionSkills, will have even more say over the development of qualifications and decisions over the funding of education and training, ensuring that they really do meet the needs of employers of all sizes.

The Construction Skills Network provides the most comprehensive set of reports ever published for the industry. The report on construction opportunities in Northern Ireland was undertaken by ConstructionSkills to determine the future training needs of the industry. It delivers the first truly authoritative basis for planning recruitment strategies, education and training mechanism and funding delivery in construction. The Network lifts the lid on predicted construction demand UK-wide and provides detailed analysis of expected workflow and project type, forecasts for the occupational skills requirements. The new findings show it won’t just be major contracting companies benefiting from new business. Many of the new projects forecast are valued at under £2 million, easily within the reach of many local construction SMEs.

William McMullan, Director of Training Strategy at CITB Northern Ireland, explains,

“The future of the construction industry looks healthy and it is those firms who have staff with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time who stand to capitalise the most – investing in training is the only way to guarantee that. Future infrastructure projects are likely to require different skills to master new building methods and materials. Industry stakeholders must work together to ensure that there is adequate resourcing and provision to provide these new innovative training methods, technologies and skills that will meet the needs of the industry.”

Construction employers in Northern Ireland planning on growing their business through investing in training can gain financial assistance through

CITB-ConstructionSkills Grants and also practical assistance from their local Regional Adviser, who can help advise them on skills and training, from health and safety to getting staff qualified and carded, or even taking on an apprentice.

Visit www.citbni.org.uk for more information on how training is good for your business.

To keep up to date with all the latest news on what ConstructionSkills is doing and discover how your company can get involved in helping secure the future of the UK construction industry register for the Skills Update.

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