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Building industry needs more hands
Chris Davis
update on Saturday, October 15, 2011
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A mainstay of Hong Kong's economy, the construction industry is being tipped by the Hong Kong Construction Industry Council (CIC) to enjoy a golden decade as government and the private sector invest in massive infrastructure.

With 10 mega-scale government projects including five new bridges, railways and tourism infrastructure underway, the CIC says the sector needs an injection of new talent.

Employment opportunities are also being created through urban redevelopment and rehabilitation projects, building repair and maintenance projects and greening schemes. Annual capital works expenditure is expected to reach an all-time high of over HK$50 billion per year for the next few years.

To cope, the CIC has boosted its skill development and training courses. The programmes include part- and full-time courses aimed at teaching technical skills, safety, theoretical knowledge and improving management know-how.

The entire industry employs about 265,000 registered workers, or 8 per cent of the local workforce. But according to a spokeswoman from the CIC, an ageing workforce and a mismatch of skills, coupled with dwindling young entrants, could trigger a labour shortage.

To encourage more people to join the industry, the CIC has launched a "Build Up Training Programme" designed to expand the skills and competitiveness of new entrants and existing construction workers. With HK$100 million earmarked for the programme, the scheme provides a training allowance in selected trades and outlines a career path for advancement.

"Attracting newcomers is critical to supporting the industry's development. By providing a training allowance, career path support and placement services, we believe we [can] train suitable construction personnel to meet the demands of the industry," says the spokeswoman.

The CIC has also been working with construction companies to put into action a "hire before training" scheme. Once an employee is hired, they join CIC training programmes matched to their abilities and career aspirations.

Further initiatives implemented by the CIC to upgrade the skills of the local construction workforce include the introduction of the Enhanced Construction Manpower Training Scheme, which provides advanced training courses for senior construction workers. Trainees enrolling in the scheme's full-time adult short courses for selected trades can receive a monthly allowance of about HK$5,000 during the training period.

Set up in 2007, the CIC aims to elevate the quality of the construction industry through promoting good practices, advancing skills through the provision of training courses or programmes and encouraging entrants to join the industry.

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