Local lowdown Robert Smith of Hays Montrose reports on the rapid growth of the Irish market

The construction sector in the Republic of Ireland has enjoyed almost threefold growth in the past 10 years, with an estimated value of about £12bn. And with government spending on infrastructure at an all-time high and property developments taking place in the commercial, industrial and private and social housing sectors, there is little prospect of this prosperous trend ebbing in the near future.

Allan Daly, Hays Montrose construction and property manager in Ireland, says: "The construction industry in Dublin will continue to grow in the next few years, with infrastructure projects being funded through the national development plan and the European Union allocating a significant proportion to development in the construction sector. The government plans to spend £33bn over the next seven years to improve the country's infrastructure, with priority being given to public transport, including both railways and roads."

Private companies are also investing heavily in Dublin with the construction of Dundrum shopping centre, a £200m project expected to be completed in 2005, and another £200m mixed development project comprising commercial, office and residential buildings in Smithfield village. The demand for housing is high in Dublin, as is the demand for hotels, with more than 20 having opened in the past three years

With the trend for construction set to continue in Ireland, jobs are plentiful in all areas of the sector. There are opportunities at all levels, from general operatives to skilled and qualified workers. In the absence of any major economic upheaval, employment in the industry is expected to grow up to 10,000 a year for the next three years. The market is growing constantly, and the reality is that contractors are able to pick and choose between jobs rather than struggle to find enough work.

Hays Montrose consultants throughout Ireland have found more and more clients looking for candidates with experience on large apartment blocks or housing projects. Those in the highest demand are quantity surveyors and project managers. Salaries for these positions have increased accordingly, exceeding the annual levels of inflation for the construction industry.

A recent placement through our Dublin office for a surveyor with five years' postgraduate experience led to a salary of £65,000 plus transport, bonus and pension plan. With a similar amount of experience, an engineer was recently placed in Dublin on a salary of £45,000, also including transport, bonus and pension plan. Both positions were extremely difficult for our Dublin office to fill.

"We haven't found any role that has an oversupply of candidates at the moment," says Hays' Daly. "There is a demand for all ‘good' construction professionals, and those with the right experience are easy to place."

In the candidate-driven market that Ireland is at present, employers need to adapt to the growing skills shortages. Companies are finding they need to be more flexible than ever if they want to fill roles.

Irish trade body the Construction Industry Federation has reported that, within the next four years, the industry in Ireland is expected to recruit another 50,000 people - a radical but credible forecast considering the dramatic rise in the number of people newly employed in the industry in the past 10 years. Employment has more than doubled in the sector since 1994, from 80,000 to 174,000. There are also a further 80,000 people newly employed in supporting industries. It is expected that, by 2006, the sector in Ireland will employ 210,000 people.