Don Burns, People 1st Construction Centre Manager ( second from left) with Industry leaders across Northern Ireland

The construction industry in the United Kingdom and Ireland has always been a powerhouse of economic growth and development. However, in recent years, it has faced a unique set of challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining young, fresh talent. With an ageing workforce and a growing demand for skilled professionals, the construction sector must adapt to ensure a sustainable and vibrant future.

How prepared is Northern Ireland’s construction industry to meet the ambitions of 2050 and beyond?

That was one of the main questions posed at a recent roundtable discussion at the Construction Industry Training Board NI (CITBNI) and one that our Centre Manager for Construction Don Burns, was on hand to answer, exploring the challenges faced by the industry in getting young talent through the door and, more importantly, keeping them engaged and motivated to stay.

“In my experience, the challenge is more nuanced and centres more on retaining young people in the industry rather than that initial attraction. The attraction exists. A major government arm’s length body recently had over 480 applications to a call for six electrician apprenticeships. However, when we get young people into the industry, it can take between three to five years for them to qualify and earn an attractive wage. The reality is that in that timeframe, other industries and sectors can appear more appealing. If we want to have an industry that can deliver on future challenges, we need to improve the attractiveness of not only entering the industry, but the long-term benefits of staying there. ” Don Burns Centre Manager, People 1st Construction Training Academy
A heating engineer installing underfloor heating system
A heating engineer installing underfloor heating system

What other challenges do we face when trying to attract fresh talent to the Construction industry across Northern Ireland?

  • Perceptions and Stereotypes:
  • One of the primary challenges in attracting young talent to the construction industry is the negative perception that often surrounds it. Many young people still hold outdated stereotypes of construction work as physically demanding, low-paying, and lacking in opportunities for career growth. Changing these perceptions is crucial to drawing in fresh faces.
  • Lack of Awareness:
  • Many young individuals may not even consider construction as a viable career option due to a lack of awareness about the diverse and rewarding roles within the industry. Promoting construction careers through educational institutions and outreach programs is essential.
  • Skills Gap:
  • While the industry is keen to embrace new talent, there is often a disconnect between the skills required and those possessed by young job seekers. Bridging this skills gap through training and apprenticeship programs is vital.
  • Safety Concerns:
  • Safety is a paramount concern in the construction sector, and young workers may be hesitant to enter an industry with perceived higher risks. Ensuring stringent safety measures and offering comprehensive training can address this concern.
  • Career Progression:
  • Young professionals seek opportunities for career advancement and development. The construction industry must showcase clear pathways for growth, from entry-level positions to senior management roles.
  • Work-Life Balance:
  • Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is increasingly important to the younger generation. Construction companies need to consider flexible work arrangements and other benefits to accommodate this need.
  • Technological Adaptation:
  • The construction industry is rapidly evolving with the integration of advanced technologies like BIM, drones, and AI. Embracing these innovations can make the industry more appealing to tech-savvy young talent.
  • Mentorship and Support:
  • Creating mentorship programs and providing ongoing support to young workers can significantly boost retention rates. Offering guidance and constructive feedback helps them feel valued and motivated.
A construction site safety inspector.
A construction site safety inspector.

People 1st is a major contract holder locally in Northern Ireland for Construction training at all levels, from school leavers through to Level 4 Site Supervisors.

We work with a range of construction specialists to get staff certified and qualified in joinery, bricklaying and roofing at our custom-built training facility in CITBNI headquarters at Crumlin. We have a team of talented tutors, and Don the Centre Manager and his team of support staff, there to assist each student in achieving their goals- whether you are new to the sector and wanting to achieve a Level 1 City and Guilds qualification or whether you are an experienced site supervisor, needing their Level 3 or Level 4 qualification to renew their CSR Gold Card. We cater for a range of levels and expertise and our team is always on hand and ready to create a bespoke training package that suits your company’s needs, so reach out to Don and the team at our CITBNI Training Academy on 028 9030 3982 or email Don at [email protected]. You can also find out more about our construction qualifications here:

To read more about the round table discussion please find the link to the full article below:

What next for new talent in the construction industry locally?

Attracting and retaining young talent is crucial for the long-term sustainability and growth of the UK construction industry. By addressing the challenges of perception, skills development, safety, career progression, work-life balance, technological adaptation, and mentorship, the construction sector can create an environment that is not only appealing to young professionals but also fosters their growth and commitment. With concerted efforts, the industry can build a brighter future that benefits both the newcomers and the construction landscape as a whole.