The Irish Concrete Federation has warmly welcomed the decision by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphries TD, to extend the employment permits system for workers outside the EEA and to add a variety of professional occupations in the construction sector onto the Critical Skills Occupations List.

The CEO of the Federation, Gerry Farrell, says Minister Humphries has reacted speedily to a significant skills shortfall that has recently emerged particularly in the pre-cast concrete sector.

I commend Minister Humphries and her Department for their responsiveness to a very specific challenge that we recently flagged to them.

The decision confirmed today by the Minister to remove technician grades and construction support occupations, such as Architectural Technicians and Draughtspersons from the Ineligible Occupations List will greatly assist the concrete sector in addressing serious skills shortfalls that have emerged over the past 12 months.

We provided the Department with evidence that the ability of the Irish precast concrete industry to meet the growth in demand for its products both in Ireland and the UK was being hampered by skills gaps emerging in specific professional areas – particularly with architectural technicians and draughtspersons – and we are confident that the move by the Minister and her Department today, will allow precast concrete companies the flexibility to now source these essential skilled personnel from non-EEA countries.

While some of this work has been sub-contracted internationally in the interim period, that is simply not sustainable in the longer term. Now pre-cast concrete manufacturers will have the scope and flexibility to source and recruit the required skilled personnel internationally and to bring them here to Ireland to work – delivering a better and more efficient outcome for the sector.”

Exports of pre-cast concrete from Ireland was virtually non-existent prior to 2006, but with support from Enterprise Ireland, the value of exports has grown to a value of €125 million in 2018.