Investors and confidence are coming back to Belfast. Robert Smith of Hays Construction & Property can help you get in on the action
After years of underinvestment and strife, Belfast is looking towards a bright future. New businesses and investors have sparked a building boom, and an influx of construction professionals have returned to the city from mainland Britain and Dublin. As with the rest of the UK, the skills shortage means experienced employees can demand higher salaries.
What's going on?
Work is under way on the Titanic Quarter, a £1bn regeneration project on the largest brownfield site in Northern Ireland. It includes the dock where the Titanic was built and the project is scheduled to take up to 20 years to complete.
The Obel, a £50m residential tower in Belfast, has just started on site. At 29 storeys, it is Belfast's tallest building. All the flats in the project sold out within 48 hours of release, highlighting the prosperity of the region's property market.
A £100m roads project is also in progress: the M1, Westlink and M2 scheme is being procured using a design, build, finance and operate contract. The deal includes the maintenance of the motorway network for 30 years.
Several projects are in the pipeline, including the Northern Ireland Sports Stadium.
Good for …
There is a strong demand for construction staff at all levels and across all disciplines. Graduates are a particular target, and companies are increasingly seeking links with students before they complete their degrees.
There has been high demand for building and civil engineers over the past six years. Contracts managers with experience of multi-site responsibility are also at a premium. We recently filled a position for a contracts manager, which required 15 years' experience and excellent technical, contractual and communication skills. The salary was £42,000 plus bonus and benefits.
Belfast is also good for work-life balance. Thanks to the relatively low population density and extensive road networks, few people commute for more than 45 minutes a day - not something that can be said of many UK cities.
Bad for …
Site clerks are common on projects in the Irish Republic and mainland UK, but are not often seen on Northern Irish sites. And with companies wooing graduates from the city's two universities, those with less than two years' experience can find it hard to get a suitable job.
How much would I get paid?
Salaries are rising and the cost of living is considerably lower than in many other UK cities, which ensures that pay levels remain competitive. There is a concern that a buoyant Dublin market and the 2012 Olympics will lure people away from the city, but this is likely to push up salaries for experienced candidates.