Belfast Telegraph

Academy set up to address skills shortage in Northern Ireland construction sector

By Margaret Canning

A new academy has been set up in Co Armagh to address major skills gaps in the construction sector.

The National Construction Skills Academy (NCSA) in Portadown will provide tuition in trades including bricklaying, plastering, tiling and joinery.

Last week a survey by recruitment Manpower said there was a growing number of jobs in construction in Northern Ireland, thanks to a boom in new commercial buildings.

But a lack of skilled workers was driving up salaries in the sector.

The NCSA said there were around 30,000 people employed in the Northern Ireland construction sector, compared to almost 47,000 in 2007.

The academy is part of the same group as ITS, which provides health and safety training to construction, civil engineering and utilities firms.

ITS managing director Brendan Crealey said he had set up the new venture in response to demand from his client base. "ITS has been providing health and safety training solutions for the construction industry for more than 15 years, delivering around 50,000 qualifications," he said.

"We work with many leading building firms and they have been telling us a lack of training provision is a major concern for the trade. The economy is emerging from the downturn and annual growth rates of 1.6% in the construction sector are forecast over the next four years, while several major infrastructure projects are planned in the UK such as HS2 and a £15bn plan to improve roads in England.

"With increasing workloads however, comes the need for additional labour and that is a gap we are aiming to fill."

A large number of commercial building projects are being carried out in Belfast.

Around 20 hotels are in the planning system and building work is now being done on around seven of them. At an industry event, MIPIM in the south of France last week, Titanic Quarter and Belfast Harbour announced it will start building a new office block, Olympic House, in Titanic Quarter.

The Harbour is also working on the second phase of its City Quays project.

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