Manpower Development for the Construction Industry
The Government has all along been committed to training local workers and attracting new entrants to join the construction industry to help address the keen manpower demand and retain a quality workforce to maintain the quality of construction at high levels. In recent years, the Government has been collaborating with the CIC to implement various initiatives for training of semi-skilled workers.
While CIC has substantially increased the supply of semi-skilled workers, the industry still faces a pressing need for skilled workers. Given the practical requirements, it usually requires a lead time of two to four years of on-the-job training, depending on the individual trades, for semi-skilled workers to become skilled workers.
To enhance the retention of semi-skilled workers and supply of skilled workers to meet the needs of the industry, we will provide $100 million for CIC to kick-start new training measures to upgrade the skills of semi-skilled workers to the level of skilled workers in the coming years. We will work closely with CIC and the relevant industry stakeholders to devise appropriate measures to take forward this new initiative. We will make continuous efforts to enhance the career development of construction skilled workers and provide them with more progression pathways.
The Government will set up a dedicated Construction Industry Recruitment Centre to provide career counselling services, conduct on-the-spot job interviews and job fairs for local construction workers. It will also facilitate contractors to accord priority to employing qualified local skilled workers.
Further enhancement measures to the Supplementary Labour Scheme for the construction industry
According to CIC’s manpower forecast, the construction industry needs additional skilled workers every year of about 10 000 to 15 000 in the coming years, having taken into account the latest forecast construction output, training and other relevant factors.
CIC set up a Task Force on Short-term Labour Supply (“the Task Force”) in early 2014 and identified 26 shortage trades. After consultation with the Labour Advisory Board, the Labour Department collaborated with relevant policy bureaux and departments in rolling out enhancement measures to the “Supplementary Labour Scheme” (SLS) in mid-2014 to expedite the preparatory works for applications of importing workers for the 26 shortage trades submitted by contractors for public sector works projects. Nonetheless, the relevant measures have yet to fully address the keen demand of the industry for skilled workers.
We learn from the industry that there are some unique operational characteristics of the industry such that it would be facing some uncertainties in applying for labour importation through SLS not encountered by other industries. For instance, construction works involve manpower requirements for different trades and skills. Before the award of a contract, a contractor cannot plan in advance their manpower demand of the project works accurately. On the other hand, once a contract is awarded, the contractor will usually need to commence works shortly to meet the scheduled completion time. Besides, construction works are carried out in sequential order and they may be affected by factors such as weather conditions, supply of materials and manpower, progress of upstream work processes and so on. These all make it difficult for contractors to undertake accurate planning for their manpower requirements.
In this connection, we need to launch further enhancement measures having regard to the unique characteristics of the construction industry. For example, allowing imported skilled workers to work across more than one public sector works projects under same contractors can enhance the flexibility of deployment, maximise the productivity of skilled workers and control costs more effectively. We are discussing with the Labour Advisory Board on the further enhancement measures and will liaise closely with stakeholders in the construction industry and the labour sector on the detailed arrangements in order to launch the further enhancement measures as early as possible. We will review their effectiveness in a timely manner. If these measures still cannot effectively resolve the acute shortage problem of construction skilled workers, we will explore with the construction industry and labour sector the introduction of other more effective and appropriate measures to meet the needs of the Hong Kong’s economic and social development.
We and CIC have been actively implementing a host of multi-pronged measures to cope with the tight manpower situation of the construction industry. These measures include enhancing training of local construction workers and attracting more new entrants to join the construction industry.
From 2009 to end 2014, CIC has trained up more than 13 000 semi-skilled workers. Amongst other training initiatives, we have collaborated with the CIC to launch the “Enhanced Construction Manpower Training Scheme” for training semi-skilled workers, targeting trades with projected labour shortage, acute ageing or recruitment difficulties. Up to end 2014, there were more than 6 000 graduates who have graduated from the enhanced scheme. Further, to diversify the modes of training and provide more training places, CIC has launched the “Contractor Cooperative Training Scheme”, under which trainees are hired and then trained on-site by contractors so as to acquire site experience at an early stage. Besides, to advance the skill levels of the in-service workers and cope with skills mismatch, CIC continue to provide subsidies for trade tests, skills enhancement courses and specified training courses.
To meet the industry’s demand for construction supervisors and technicians, we and CIC have collaborated to launch the “Enhanced Construction Supervisor/Technician Training Scheme” in October 2012. CIC targets to train a total of 1 000 construction supervisors and technicians under the scheme. Up to end 2014, about 300 trainees have undertaken the training courses.
In May 2011, we collaborated with CIC to launch the “Build-Up Publicity Campaign” to project a positive image of the industry. The latest image tracking survey in 2014 has revealed that since the launch of the campaign, the percentage of young people interviewed who are willing to join the industry has been increased significantly from about 8% to over 27%.
Although various initiatives have been implemented smoothly and have attained certain results, the shortage problem of skilled workers has yet to be resolved. On the overriding premise of giving priority to the employment of local skilled workers, safeguarding their income levels as well as promoting training to the construction workforce in a continuous manner, the construction industry needs to import skilled workers in a timely and effective manner to meet the demand. This will not only help meet the manpower demand of the industry but will also make room for the local in-service skilled workers to nurture semi-skilled workers.
CIC has also completed its forecast of manpower situation for construction professionals, site supervisory personnel and technicians and released its findings in November 2014. The study has revealed that construction professionals, site supervisory personnel and technicians are generally in shortage. CIC will regularly update and release the manpower forecast. We and CIC will work closely with the industry stakeholders including the relevant professional and education institutions for appropriate measures to tackle the challenges of the industry.
Amendment of the Construction Workers Registration Ordinance
The registration system under the Construction Workers Registration Ordinance (CWRO) recognises the skill levels of construction workers to raise their status, ensures the quality of construction work, and provides reliable manpower data to facilitate manpower planning and training. The Phase One Prohibition under CWRO has been implemented since 2007 and the construction industry generally complies with its requirements.
On 18 December 2014, the LegCo passed our amendment Bill to CWRO for implementing the remaining phase6 of the prohibition part on “designated workers for designated skills”. We target to commence the Bill in April 2015. The implementation of the remaining phase will then commence two years after commencement of the Bill (i.e. April 2017). We will, in conjunction with CIC, widely publicise the registration requirements to the industry and enhance relevant training and trade-test provision during the transitional period to meet the demand.
6 Under Phase One Prohibition, construction workers carrying out construction works at construction sites shall be registered. The registration qualification of a general construction worker is possession of a valid Construction Industry Safety Training Certificate (also known as “Green Card”). Upon the implementation of the remaining phase of the Prohibition, workers carrying out trade works shall meet the registration qualification and registered as skilled or semi-skilled workers of that particular trade, or under instruction and supervision of a registered skilled or semi-skilled worker of that particular trade.