Visibility and real time trackers on NDP projects key to attracting industry talent – CIF President Frank Kelly

by | Oct 12, 2021

The National Development Plan is hugely important to our industry and yet we are still awaiting the publication of the NDP
linked to Ireland 2040, a vital piece of the jigsaw as we plan for the future of the Irish construction industry for the next two
decades and beyond.

Without visibility our members are uncertain about projects coming down the line, those that are committed or not, with a special concern that projects previously sanctioned, with a lot of time and investment made, might fall away.

It is well-documented that largely due to the pandemic, the industry worldwide has been hit by significant increases in costs and inflation. One of the effects of this is that some projects have had to go out to retender, with significant time delays as a result.

To us, that demonstrates the inflexibility of the Public Works Contract in its current form. In the current climate with significant inflationary pressure, asking contractors to stand over tenders for more than 180 days it not sustainable or fair.

When they cannot, the awarding authority has no flexibility whatsoever to deal with that through the contract. It goes without saying that if a tender goes back out to the open market again, this is not bringing value to the public purse. What is needed is some form of flexibility or instruction from the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) to allow the awarding authority to negotiate where there are legitimate prices increases and to get those projects moving.

For example, if a school needs to be delivered but must be retendered, a delay of say 12 months before contractors arrive to site impacts on all stakeholders. We have been lobbying Government for many years on the need to amend the Public Works Contracts, which is now critical if we are going to build the necessary infrastructure to deliver Ireland 2040.

One of the key amendments required is the price variation clause. SMEs are very reliant on Government work and walking away from a public works contract that a contractor has secured is a very difficult thing to do. We have been through a perfect storm with Brexit and Covid and by dealing with the inherent inequity in Public Works Contracts government can provide the industry with a major stimulus at this important time.

The availability of skilled resources is also an issue and visibility for future work allows our industry to plan accordingly and attract
talent. As employers we want to provide prospective jobseekers with a roadmap showing there is a valuable long-term career in construction, and that the industry is not subject to boom and bust cycles.

We are delighted to report that graduate recruitment remains at very high levels across the sector, however the CIF is also focusing on career campaigns, in association with SOLAS and other agencies, that demonstrate that a third level qualification is not a prerequisite to pursuing a career in construction.

This involves a commitment to attracting apprentices into the industry, and retraining others. Also, those who emigrated after the economic downturn 10 years ago, in many cases as young adults, can be convinced to return to Ireland if the conditions are right, the career opportunities exist, and we can demonstrate that there is an excellent future for them here.

However, to do this, visibility on the National Development Plan is needed, and needed now.

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