In this construction boom, Dublin-based firms can only expand and thrive if the talent is available.

With an ever-increasing demand for construction in Ireland and the migration of construction businesses to Dublin, investing in future talent is more important than ever. According to the Society of Chartered Surveyors, while the number of students enrolling in construction courses in recent years has increased, ‘graduate output will be insufficient to meet future demand, with Ireland set to experience a shortage of over 2,000 construction and property surveyors over the next four years’.

To address this concern, businesses must start cultivating home-grown talent and building their careers in order to survive. With the Dublin housing crisis serving as a catalyst to an increase in residential construction and Dublin’s tech explosion, specialist consultants and talented quantity surveyors are in demand.

Of course, the economy is helping Dublin-based firms to expand and thrive but it can be futile if the investment in talent is not available.

How easy is it to address this challenge?

Aspiring graduates and apprentices look for an employer who can provide them with the experience and professional skills necessary to develop a successful career while building on their academic achievements.

These opportunities are often provided by the SME employer rather than the large corporates. Commonly, independent but expanding firms build from the community of a tight-knit team where responsibility isn’t shied away from but taken on earlier in one’s career.

“As an industry and as a business, we cannot afford to sit around and wait for others to make a difference here” says Ronan McGee, a Director of Duke McCaffrey – a rapidly growing Dublin firm. “The signs are there. The construction sector continues to rise but the trends in the talent needed is in decline. For our business, it is critical to attract, train and retain good quality surveyors. Our vision is to get the next generation ready”

Getting the next generation ready

In April this year, a new survey was released by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) and PwC highlighting the concern that “attracting and retaining key talent is the single key constraint hampering growth in the Irish construction industry.”

It is one thing to suggest that firms need to develop the talent but what are graduates expecting from employers?  Graduates are very clear in their mind what they are looking for.

“I want to try everything I can to build a career that I have spent four years studying” says Michael McNulty, associate Quantity Surveyor, Duke McCaffrey. “It’s critical to find a firm that recognises our abilities. You hear so many stories about graduates in roles where they are not getting the variety of work or not being supported. It’s attractive to graduates to be involved in a lot of different projects and tasks which challenge you and give you the knowledge you need to get to the next level”

Graduates and young professionals are intelligent and knowledge thirsty individuals. After four years of hard graft and one year in industry, their theses vary from solving issues around modern methods of construction and the use of technology, to the importance of high rise in a capital city.

Let’s take the topic Dublin Rising. Li-Hui studied at Limerick Institute of Technology and wrote her final dissertation on high-rise buildings and restrictions within Dublin. With the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy calling for the pursuit of taller buildings in the city, An Bord Pleanála granting permission for a 22-storey building, and the Dublin high rise planning strategy, this collaboration of employer’s expertise and employee’s passion is certainly something a team can benefit from. Whilst this was one of her passions, Li-Hui said that “Although my thesis is in high rising, I’d actually garnered a curiosity for working within M&E cost consultancy, particularly due to the work from my placement year, and from the specific M&E modules on my course. It was important to me to find a firm specialising in data centres and the data sector. This route has put me at the forefront of innovative construction.”

While expertise and experience is vital, it is also the interpersonal relationships that can truly set a company apart as a construction consultancy firm. With mental wellbeing becoming increasingly recognised as an issue affecting many in the industry, a necessity for every business is creating a safe and comfortable environment where employees feel mutually supported. Michael supports this notion, highlighting his colleagues as one of the best parts of the job. ‘They’re one of the main reasons I wanted to stay on after doing my year of placement.’

The best solutions come from ideas, innovation and experience

It is vital that businesses provide young employees with the space to share their ideas, ask questions and stay inquisitive so they can gain from the experience of the senior team.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors recently shared an article explaining why it is never too late to become a Quantity Surveyor, and within this piece made some insightful comments as to how important life experience is within the industry. ‘As you gain more experience, you can side-step into other careers within the construction arena such as Project Management or Development Management. You can also choose to step away from a more traditional consulting or construction role and go to work client-side or for a developer.’

The type of graduate training schemes provided by forward-thinking companies like Duke McCaffrey will provide young professionals, such as Michael and Li-Hui, with the skills and experience to be able to make these career choices later in life and create a richer and more experienced Quantity Surveying profession to the benefit of Ireland’s construction industry.

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