GMIT conference: Three major challenges facing construction after pandemic

by | May 1, 2021

A rapid post-Covid recovery is expected but the industry faces three major challenges as it emerges from the pandemic. The widespread adoption of data and digitalisation, carbon reduction and the adoption of Modern Methods of Construction can also be areas of opportunity for construction, according to Director of AECOM Ireland John O’Regan. 

Speaking at the 11th annual GMIT International Construction Management Day Conference, O’Regan also outlined the severe impact the pandemic was having on the sector in terms of lost output. There has been an estimated reduction in 2020 of over €7billion on the preceding year. He added that while the situation was currently very difficult, there was still a significant pipeline of work moving through the system and that graduate job prospects remained good in the sector. 

Head of Department of Building and Civil Engineering, Mary Rogers said she was “particularly pleased that students who will shortly graduate in Construction Management, Civil Engineering, Quantity Surveying, and Architectural Technology got to hear first-hand a very positive message from industry, not just post Covid-19, but also for an exciting and innovative future.” 

Senior members of the CIF also led discussions at the event held fully online on from GMIT Galway. Chaired by lecturer Dr Martin Taggart, it attracted over 700 multi-disciplinary delegates. CIF President Frank Kelly, also Director of Construction at Walls Construction and CIF Director General Tom Parlon took part in a joint interview. 

The Director General spoke of how the CIF had lobbied government for the reopening of the industry – that Ireland was unique in Europe as being the only country who had a full lockdown of construction. Frank Kelly discussed the extensive work undertaken by the CIF to rapidly develop a Safe Operating Procedure (SOP) and worker training programme, which was being fully utilised in his own company.  Both noted a very positive future.  

Unlike the recent economic recession, they said the pipeline of work was still there and government and EU investment to restore industry is the preferred plan.  The conference took place off the back of a built environment careers day at GMIT, where 24 companies carried out over 300 interviews with 80 students who will graduate this year.   

Learning, Education and Academic Director of CABE, John Barfoot joined the conference from Northampton. He spoke about the need for professionals to adopt a lifelong learning approach to help develop competencies. Graduation, he said, should be the start of a competence journey not the endpoint. He considered recent issues in both the UK and Ireland concerning London’s Grenfell Tower and Dublin’s Priory Hall as monumental competence failures in terms of validating projects that are safe and compliant.  

He also said professional bodies had rapidly adapted their CPD offerings to an online world and that attendances appeared to have increased as a result. More online offerings may encourage more professionals to attend CPD events, he added.  

President of the CIOB, Mark Beard spoke about how to build a sustainable and inclusive culture in the construction industry. Beard, who is also Chairman of Beard Construction UK, joined the conference from Oxford in conversation with Dr Martin Taggart and CIF Director Justin Molloy. Adopting a supportive culture, he said, was not only good for employees but also made good business sense to retain top quality staff, help recruitment and increase productivity. 

Justin Molloy discussed the benefits of the Considerate Constructor Scheme, which focuses on a ‘good neighbours’ approach by contractors and respect of people in terms of their site workforce. The conference was opened by GMIT President, Dr Orla Flynn and Head of GMIT School of Engineering, Professor Graham Heaslip 

The 11th annual GMIT International Construction Management Day Conference took place on March 9.

Supporters & Sponsors: The Construction Industry Federation, The Chartered Institute of Building, The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, The Chartered Association of Building Engineers 

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