Perhaps you are thinking of becoming a bricklayer, and you are wondering if there is enough work? Are you worried about the availability of bricklaying apprenticeships, future employment prospects, and career development?
Across Ireland there’s a bricklaying shortage causing issues for the construction industry. An industry with an ageing workforce coupled with youth not choosing bricklaying as a career has been a long standing issue. Compounding this, construction sector lockdowns and national recession have forced many Irish bricklayers to move across Europe.
Why is there a bricklayer shortage?
The bricklaying sector in Ireland is marred by volatility. Both qualified bricklayers and potential bricklaying apprentices have shied away from the sector due to the uncertainty of regular work, which leads to an irregular income. It is challenging spending a lifetime in a profession in which one is regularly in and out of work.
The 2008 recession still has impact on the bricklaying sector
The 2008 recession had a devastating effect on the construction sector as a whole and on the bricklaying sector in particular. When people can’t afford to build houses, there is not enough work for all the skilled bricklayers in the country.
A few years before the 2008 recession, there were approximately 200,000 people employed in the construction sector in Ireland. But, in 2020, there were only about 160,000 people employed in the construction sector in the country. This contraction of the construction sector workforce also affected the bricklaying sector, with many bricklayers moving to Europe or to countries like Australia just to find work.
Coronavirus arrived just as Bricklaying in Ireland was recovering
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on several countries around the world, including Ireland. The Government’s national lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic led to a general shutdown of construction in Ireland. The numerous nationwide lockdowns have affected the construction industry as a whole, and the bricklaying sector has not been spared.
Because of this, hundreds of bricklayers left Ireland and moved to the UK and other countries in Europe in search of bricklaying jobs. Some UK firms offered bricklayers from Ireland free flights and accommodation if they moved to the UK for work. This is a large contributor to the shortage of bricklayers in Ireland.
The effects of an ageing workforce on the bricklaying industry
The Irish bricklaying sector is suffering from an ageing workforce. This means that there are a lot of bricklayers with a lot of experience approaching retirement.
As older bricklayers are leaving the bricklaying profession due to illness, early retirement, or retirement, this leaves a vacuum of vacant positions. If youth are ready to take a chance, there are great opportunities for young people. The shortage of bricklayers leads to less competition for jobs and higher wages.
Not enough young people choosing a bricklaying apprenticeship
Although bricklaying is an excellent option for young people who do not want to go down the academic route – it no longer seems to be the carrier of choice. Increasingly, younger people are going to University and choosing other careers that do not have to deal with the extreme weather elements in Ireland. Potentially more effort to promote the industry in schools could help encourage take up of bricklaying as a career. With only 65 people starting bricklaying apprenticeships in Ireland in 2017, it is no surprise that there is a shortage of bricklayers in the country.
To become a bricklayer in Ireland, you need to spend four years on a bricklaying apprenticeship. The general reduction in the number of young people starting bricklaying apprenticeships in Ireland should lead to more bricklaying apprenticeship positions being available. But there is a catch, they need to get in before the older bricklayers retire, taking their knowledge with them.
If youth choose bricklaying as a career now, there is less competition for limited bricklaying apprenticeship positions available and employment should be more stable than in the past.
The benefits of a bricklayer shortage to new bricklayers
Even though there is a general shortage of bricklayers in Ireland, this shortage has some advantages, which we will discuss below.
More bricklaying jobs available
As any economist will tell you, a shortage of the number of people with a particular skill will generally lead to more jobs being available to people with that skill set. Due to factors such as bricklayers leaving Ireland to find jobs in other countries, an ageing workforce, and a reduction in the number of bricklaying apprentices, more bricklaying vacancies have been created. A trade survey carried out by the Federation of Master Builders in Ireland showed that a third of builders were experiencing difficulties hiring qualified bricklayers.
The new bricklaying vacancies would be very attractive to potential bricklaying apprentices and other bricklayers who wish to return to the sector after having previously left.
More career progression opportunities
Again, the increase in the number of bricklaying vacancies that have been made possible due to a shortage of bricklayers in Ireland would also lead to more bricklaying career progression opportunities. So, where the bricklaying sector has previously been shunned due to the lack of clear carrier progression opportunities, the new opportunities available will help attract many bricklayers, new and old, to the sector.
Higher Salaries when Bricklayers are hard to get
Scarcity usually leads to higher prices. This also applies to the bricklaying sector in Ireland. It is not surprising that the bricklayer shortage in Ireland would inevitably lead to higher salaries being offered to fewer bricklayers working in the sector. Therefore, people interested in entering the bricklaying profession and people who previously left the bricklaying profession for one reason or another would find the higher salaries very attractive. Higher salaries would attract many people to the bricklaying sector, which would reduce the shortage of bricklayers in Ireland.
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