Society President MICHEÁL O’CONNOR say it is vital that the Government implements the Forfás report into the construction industry. 

President's Message

During 2012, the Society worked closely with Forfás, the other construction professional bodies and State agencies in the production of a strategic review of the construction industry in Ireland. The report, produced by Forfás and reviewed elsewhere in this edition of the Surveyors Journal, recognises the important role of the construction sector in the Irish economy, and the need for measures to support it during these difficult years.

The familiar tale of boom to bust
The story of the collapse of the construction industry is well known to you all, and does not need to be re-told here. We are all dealing with the fallout from the lack of credit and weak consumer sentiment. The focus of the Forfás report is on how to restore some activity and confidence in the construction sector without repeating the mistakes of the past.

Developing at home and abroad
To my mind, there are two issues we need to focus on. The first is the collapse in productive capacity and skills. As employment in the sector fell, construction firms had to lose some of their most talented and skilled workers; having nurtured them through long training and apprenticeships, it has been very difficult to let people go, only to see them leave Ireland to seek work elsewhere. Ireland is experiencing a brain drain and the construction industry is experiencing an erosion of the skill base that created such innovation in the past. It is welcome that the Forfás report specifically recommends focusing on the supply of new construction and property professionals into the market and to ensure that they are skilled to deliver a modern, dynamic sector, which is responsive to the increased requirements of clients and ever-increasing regulatory burdens. This means reviewing the apprenticeship model, and the structure and content of third-level courses, and harnessing opportunities for international placements.

The second issue that must be a focus of the new construction industry is supporting Irish construction firms to capitalise on international opportunities. Many of our larger firms are already working overseas, using the period of quiet in the Irish market to focus on harnessing international work. We need to make it easier for smaller firms to work overseas, as part of a consortium of Irish businesses or with overseas partners. There is a good opportunity for Enterprise Ireland and other State agencies to showcase the quality of Irish building and to lower the entry costs of working internationally. In some cases, access to this work, however modest, may provide a lifeline to businesses until domestic work picks up. In contrast to some of our European colleagues, where export of construction-related services can account for in excess of 50% of overall industry production, we are lagging behind, which suggests that this is an area ripe with opportunity.

The Society has written to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation to impress upon him the need to implement the recommendations of this long-awaited report. After six years of depression in the sector, this report presents an opportunity to put new measures in place to help retain the skills of the sector, and to improve its access to new clients, but focused implementation is key to its success.

Annual Conference 2013
October sees the third annual Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland conference. The Annual Conference has rapidly become one of the largest gatherings of construction and property professionals in Ireland, and once again, you are encouraged to attend. Not only is the conference the perfect way to hear international speakers discuss new trends in the sector around the world, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more about the issues that shape the other sectors in which Chartered Surveyors work. I know from talking to members that they find it fascinating to learn about aspects of the market that would have otherwise passed them by, and enjoyable to meet fellow members. I encourage you to attend and I look forward to what promises to be a very interesting day.

Micheál O'Connor

Micheál O’Connor
President
Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland