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Skills Shortages Highlighted in Latest Skills Bulletin Report

    skills shortages report

    The National Skills Bulletin is the latest in an annual series of reports, produced by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) in SOLAS. The Bulletin provides an overview of the Irish labour market at occupational level. The objective of the Bulletin is to inform policy formulation in the areas of employment, education/training, career guidance and immigration. The Bulletin also aims to assist students, job seekers, persons returning to the labour force, investors and employers in making labour market decisions.

    Some findings of the report are outlined below..

    Employment Statistics
    Overall employment rates increased by 1.6 percentage points to 63.3% annual average (1.98 million persons employed in Q4 2015). This brought down the annual average unemployment rate down to 9.5%. Long term unemployment rates were placed at 4.7%. It is worth nothing that emigration will have accounted for some of the decline in unemployment figures, with over 11,600 more leaving the country than arriving here. The unemployment rate remained high for certain segments of the labour market including the under 25’s (19%), former construction workers (16%) and persons with lower secondary or less education(15%).

    Employment by Sector
    In 2015, the strongest employment growth was seen in the construction sector (8.5%). Employment increased in most sectors except financial where it declined, education and agriculture remained almost unchanged. During 2015, shortages were observed in an increasing number of occupations and sectors compared to recent years.

    The skills in short supply related to experienced candidates associated with the pharmaceutical, pharma, and food innovation industries. In particular there was a demand for scientists with experience in compliance, regulatory affairs and new product development.

    At professional level, shortages of engineers, typically for roles in pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing, have been identified. The demand relates largely to those who lack experience, 5 years in industrial settings. Job titles in short supply include;

    • Process/bioprocess engineers
    • Automation/validation/commissioning engineers
    • Quality/QC/QA engineers & other regulatory affairs professionals
    • R&D engineers: (e.g. gene and stem cell therapy; biologics, etc.)
    • Chemical/chemical process engineers
    • Mechanical engineers: with skills in polymer engineering & injection moulding
    • Electrical engineers
    • Global and industrial managers and engineers

    At technician level, shortages have been identified for:

    • Quality assurance technicians
    • Injection moulding technicians
    • Polymer engineering technicians
    • Biotechnology technicians
    • Extrusion technicians
    • Process technologists
    • Maintenance technicians.

    ICT (Information and Communications Technology)

    Shortages of the following skills have been identified in the ICT sector:

    • Programming and software development:
      programming languages (Java, .net, C++, Python, PHP, Scala, AKKA, Ruby on Rails, VBA); operating systems (iOS, Linux); mobile applications development; web development (CSS, HTML)
    • Cloud computing: MS Azure, AWS (amazon web services), cloud architect
    • InfoSec (IT security): IoT (internet of things), BYOD (bring your own device), data/information security; IT internal audit
    • Web design (niche areas only): particularly web related applications focusing on enhancing users’ online experience (UX) and supporting user interaction (UI)
    • DevOps engineering (developing/testing, process re-engineering and communication skills)
    • IT project management
    • Networking and infrastructure: networking engineer
    • IT business analysis: business intelligence and search engine optimisation
    • Database administration (DBA), big data analytics, data architecture (ETL – Extract, Transform and Load – a process in database usage/data warehousing) and data warehousing: SQL, Hadoop , Hive, Apache, PIG and Cassandra
    • Testing and troubleshooting: software testers; automation test developers; automated performance testers
    • Technical support: user support with foreign language skills (German, Nordic).

    Business and financial

    Shortages have been identified in the following areas for business and finance:

    • Accounting: accountants and tax analysts with experience (5 years+) in niche areas (e.g. cost, fixed assets, solvency, international and/or manufacturing settings, languages (German & Nordic)
    • Compliance & risk: experienced (5 years+) regulatory affairs and insurance compliance professionals; auditors
    • FinTech: business and financial professionals with skills in specific software packages and experience (inc. international)
    • Business intelligence & data analytics: experienced (5 years+) statisticians; entry level and experienced revenue managers (specific sectors, e.g. hospitality); financial systems analysts; economists and data scientists (big data, data visualisations and quantitative modelling)
    • Fnancial management/financial analysis: trustee managers; deposit managers; payroll managers
    • HR managers and recruitment specialists
    • Fund accounting/fund administration: mostly entry level or with some experience
    • Multilingual financial clerks: credit controllers; accounts payable/receivable; payroll specialists; fund accounting and transfer pricing specialists.

    Construction professionals

    Shortages of the following skills have been identified in construction:

    • Construction and quantity surveyors with BIM (building information modelling, CAD)
    • Construction project managers with experience.

    Construction craft Shortages have been identified in relation to the following roles:

    • Curtain wallers
    • Glaziers
    • Steelfixer, steel erectors
    • Pipelayers
    • Shuttering carpentry
    • Shift managers and supervisors.

    Other craft

    A shortage of TIG/MIG welders continues to persist, with demand expected to remain strong particularly due to the growth in the construction and metal fabrication/machining (e.g. high tech manufacturing) industries.

    The new proposed apprenticeships – advanced craft welder – are expected to alleviate the shortage in the medium term.

    A shortage of tradespersons with expertise in making highly complex precision tools continue to persist. A number of new courses and modules have been introduced in recent years, including new manufacturing apprenticeships proposed by the Irish Medical Devices Association (IMDA), which in addition to the increased in output from FET (Further Education and Training) courses and apprenticeship is expected to alleviate the shortage in the medium term.

    Arts, Sport and Tourism

    A shortage of chefs continues to persist, although a recent increases in the training output and the proposed new apprenticeships are expected to alleviate the issue over the medium term.

    While the supply is sufficient to meet the demand for lower skilled hospitality roles (waiters/bar staff and catering assistants), the availability of persons willing to take up those roles is expected to be negatively affected by the greater availability of job opportunities across other growing sectors.


    Shortages continue to persist for the following healthcare occupations:

    • Medical practitioners (especially locum and non-consultant hospital doctors, registrars and medical specialists (e.g. general and emergency medicine, anaesthetists, paediatricians, consultant radiologists)
    • Nurses: advanced nursing practitioners (e.g. intensive care, operation theatre, theatre nurse managers), registered nurses (e.g. general nurse, cardiovascular care, elder persons’ care, children’s care; intellectual disability care, mental health care) and clinical nurses
    • Radiographers (clinical specialists, MRI and CT radiographers)
    • Niche area specialists (radiation therapists, audiologists, prosthetists, orthotists, cardio-technician)
    • Health service managers; nursing home directors.


    Although no shortage of teachers has been identified overall, issues continue to exist in relation to sourcing teachers (in both second and third level) with a high level of expertise in specific fields, such as science and mathematics. As the economy recovers further, the ability to attract persons with science and maths skills into teaching may become more challenging given that such skills are also in demand in other sectors (e.g. IT, biopharma, financial).


    Shortages of skills relevant to supply chain management have been identified; these include transport management, warehouse management, materials management, raw materials forecasting/planning (junior roles), inventory control/planning, freight sales, and freight forwarding (air & ocean); the demand is particularly strong for those with experience, industry specific knowledge (e.g. high tech manufacturing, FMCG), foreign languages and relevant technical skills (e.g. SAP BI and analytics).

    Difficulties have been identified in relation to sourcing suitable candidates for a number of driving skills including:

    • Fork lift drivers
    • Articulated truck drivers/heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers
    • Reach truck drivers
    • Rigid truck with Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).

    Social & Care

    While there is no shortage of nursing aids and healthcare assistants, geographical mobility and a lack of attractiveness of the job have been identified as issues in relation to the availability of some healthcare skills.

    Given the high level of turnover, as well as the high volume of job vacancies advertised and job ready job seekers, it is recognised that some employers may be experiencing difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified care and childcare workers.

    Sales & Customer Care

    Shortages of the following skills continue to persist:

    • Technical and product/service knowledge (e.g. pharmaceutical, medical devices, Software B2B, SaaS products, etc.)
    • Communication skills, cultural awareness and foreign languages (especially German, French and Nordic)
    • Marketing expertise required to lead product strategy development and management continues to exist.


    Shortages of the following operative skills have been identified:

    • Qualified CNC (computer numeric control) operatives, particularly in high technology manufacturing and engineering
    • Production operatives.

    While there is currently no shortage of construction operatives, evidence points to an increasing demand for experienced tower crane operatives and pipelayers.

    The report is positive overall, indicating that the employment rates are increasing. Skilled, qualified and experienced personnel are in high demand in a broad range of professions. There are many job opportunities for those seeking new employment or career changes in various sectors. The education institutes are now offering many qualifications and training courses, both part-time and full-time, to enable job seekers to up-skill and qualify for these employment opportunities. Employment providers are also benefitting from a skilled and plentiful labour market in Ireland and abroad. However it remains to be seen how the UK’s exit from the EU will affect the Irish economy and if this will have further knock on effects on some of the sectors highlighted above.

    The full report can be viewed online by clicking here.