Major Changes in Irish Permit Criteria for Construction Workers

– Civil engineers, QS’s, construction project managers, and M&E engineers with BIM capabilities added to Critical Skills List

– Sheet metal workers, welders, pipefitters, air-con and refrigeration engineers, shuttering carpenters, glaziers, window fabricators and fitters, scaffolders, stagers and riggers, and crane drivers removed from Ineligible List of Occupations

– Plasterers subject to a quota of 250, and bricklayers subject to a quota of 250 removed from Ineligible List of Occupations by quota

CIF Welcomes Changes in Worker Permits Criteria

The CIF has strongly welcomed changes to the criteria for work permit eligibility for those outside the EU. This will see an increase in the number of skilled workers eligible for employment in Ireland’s construction sector.

The new changes to the employment permit system include the removal of certain occupations from the ineligible list, including essential construction trades such as sheet metal workers, pipefitters and scaffolders.

Tom Parlon, Director General, CIF, said the construction sector has been growing since 2013 at a rate of 1000 people a month and has been experiencing skills shortages in particular areas that are essential to the delivery of housing and infrastructure.

“The CIF has engaged with SOLAS and Education Training Boards to upskill those on the live register and bring them back into the industry.  We have also attempted to attract members of the diaspora back to work here, and finally, we are working with schools to encourage more young people into the industry in the medium term. The measures announced by Minister Humphreys will allow us to meet the pent-up demand for construction activity across Ireland.

Near Full Employment

“We are approaching near full employment in Ireland, and there is still a huge demand for labour to deliver the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland housing strategy and its National Development Plan. This will allow the entry of construction specialists from outside the EU and enable them to seek work in Ireland and to have access to a work permit.  The Irish construction industry now offers excellent career prospects and a sectoral employment order that means companies pay good wages and conditions for every worker in Ireland. We welcome today’s announcement of the changes to the criteria to work permit eligibility and believe that this will allow the Irish economy to grow and meet the NDP targets.”

How the Permit System Operates

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in announcing the changes acknowledged they greatly needed to address labour shortages in construction and other sectors. The changes follow a comprehensive review of the employment permits system.

Ireland operates a managed employment permit system through occupation lists, namely the Critical Skills and Ineligible Lists of Occupations, which are reviewed twice a year. This is an evidence-based process that takes account of labour market conditions and submissions from sectors and other stakeholders, together with contextual factors such as Brexit. The purpose of the system is to maximise the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting the Irish labour market.

Critical Skills List of Occupations

Following the first bi-annual review of 2019, Minister Humphreys announced the addition of Civil engineers

  • Quantity surveyors,
  • Construction project managers, and
  • Mechanical and electrical engineers with BIM capabilities

to the Critical Skills List of Occupations, which means they will qualify for Critical Skills Employment Permits.

Removal from Ineligible List of Occupations

Minister Humphreys announced the removal of certain occupations from the Ineligible List of Occupations, which means they will qualify for a General Employment Permit.

The occupations now eligible are:

  • Sheet metal workers
  • Welding trades
  •  Pipefitters
  • Air-conditioning and refrigeration engineers
  • Shuttering carpenters
  • Glaziers
  • Window fabricators and fitters
  • Scaffolders, stagers and riggers and
  • Crane drivers

Ineligible List of Occupations by quota

The Minister also announced the removal of additional occupations from the Ineligible List of Occupations by quota, which means they will qualify for a General Employment Permit.

These include:

  • Plasterers subject to a quota of 250, and
  • Bricklayers subject to a quota of 250

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Agile Employment Permit System

Commenting on the changes, Minister Humphreys said: “Our economic migration policy accommodates the arrival of non-EEA nationals to fill capacity gaps in the domestic economy in the short to medium term, while still prioritising, wherever possible, Irish and EEA nationals in the awarding of contracts of employment. The changes I have announced demonstrate that the employment permit system is sufficiently agile and flexible to respond to the evolving needs of the labour market.”

Turning to the changes she is introducing for the construction sector, the Minister continued “Construction in Ireland is an important economic sector, which is broadly based across the country, supporting employment in all regions. During the recent economic downturn, it suffered more than most, and many skilled workers left Ireland to find opportunities abroad.  I am aware that the sector is actively seeking to encourage many of these workers back to take up jobs in Ireland but despite those efforts, there is still a significant supply gap, and companies are experiencing real skills shortages. These changes, combined with the many training courses and apprenticeships available to train up workers in the domestic economy, will help to ease pressure on the sector.”

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