With a number of positive indicators for Irish construction in 2019, but also some major issues to be addressed, CIF directors are positive but cautious about industry prospects in the year ahead.
Sean Downey, Director Specialist Contracting
The outlook for specialist contractors in 2019 is multi-layered. This year will hopefully see the establishment of the Digital Centre of Excellence for Construction. This is an integral part of the Roadmap to a Digital Transition for our industry. We will continue to work with Enterprise Ireland to help drive our companies towards competitive and continuous improvement initiatives that they support.
The Greater Dublin Area will continue to suffer as a result of its success. Certain subsectors will do very well as they provide niche project offerings for highly technical clients. However, the ongoing growth in activity continues to mask what is really going on. We believe that a lot of companies operating in the broader commercial and residential sectors are still operating on extremely tight margins on projects that have been bid at below cost. The difficulties will only be exacerbated by construction inflation. The gap in project profitability for a lot of craft-orientated specialist contractors may not be realised until the industry slows down again.
Companies are finding it challenging to secure competent, experienced management professionals and skilled labour.
From 2019 onwards, with the development of new apprenticeship programmes for the M&E sector in the engineering services management field, along with new ab initio programmes for scaffolders, and proposed for roofing and cladding installers, we hope to start building a long-term sustainable supply of qualified homegrown personnel.
The current situation, where extensive works packages are supplied using agency labour, is unsustainable and will no doubt lead to quality issues on projects. 2019 will definitely start to put more pressure on delivery and show the effects of a lack of investment in skills training.