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LCQ19: Construction manpower training

Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (February 12):

Question:

Some members of the construction industry have pointed out that the Construction Industry Council (CIC) received an annual income of several hundred million dollars, including levies and government funding, in each of the past few years, but the programmes offered by CIC only train students to become semi-skilled workers, without training up a sufficient number of semi-skilled workers for the job types with keen manpower demand.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the number of semi-skilled workers trained up by CIC in 2013, with a breakdown by job type;

(2) whether it knows how CIC utilises its income last year; of the measures put in place by the authorities to ensure that CIC utilises its income effectively, including training up, in a timely manner, a sufficient number of workers for the construction industry in response to the manpower demand of the industry;

(3) as the authorities plan to introduce a bill to amend the Construction Workers Registration Ordinance (Cap. 583) with a view to, inter alia, providing explicitly that CIC can make use of the levies collected under that ordinance and the Construction Industry Council Ordinance (Cap. 587) at its discretion for performing its various functions under the two ordinances to facilitate more effective use of resources, of the crux of the problem that hampers the effective use of such levies by CIC at present (and set out one by one), and how the proposed amendments can improve the efficiency of CIC in utilising its resources and performing its functions;

(4) as the findings of a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Construction Association at the end of last year show that there is a shortage of more than 10 000 skilled workers in Hong Kong at present and it has been reported that the Development Bureau has also advised the Labour Advisory Board that the construction industry would face an annual shortage of some 20 000 skilled workers in the coming four years, whether the authorities have new measures in place to address the manpower shortage of the construction industry; if they have, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) as there are views that most of the skilled workers in the construction industry are trained up by contractors themselves, whether the authorities have evaluated if CIC should respond closely to market needs by providing programmes for training skilled workers comprehensively?

Reply:

President,

Established under the Construction Industry Council Ordinance (Cap 587) (the Ordinance), CIC is a statutory co-ordinating body comprising industry stakeholders of the construction industry and has its autonomy.  CIC provides advice and reflect needs to the Government on behalf of the industry.  It also deploys the collected levies to implement various measures to support the development of the industry, including nurturing manpower and enhancing the skill levels of construction personnel.  To cope with the increasing construction manpower demand in recent years, CIC has invested substantially in training local construction personnel.  In 2013, CIC's training expenses amounted to about $350 million.  Additional provision has already been earmarked for training works in 2014.  In fact, to address the manpower challenges, the Administration has deployed a series of measures since 2008-09, including obtaining approvals from the Legislative Council for allocating funding of $100 million and $220 million in 2010 and 2012 respectively for CIC to enhance its training resources of local construction personnel.

My reply to the five parts of the Hon Shek's question is as follows:

(1) In 2013, about 5 500 trainees have joined various courses organised by CIC for training of semi-skilled workers.  About 3 200 of them have graduated.  Its breakdown for major trades is tabled in the Annex.

(2) and (5) As the statutory body of the industry established pursuant to the Ordinance, CIC comprises members from various sectors of the industry representing employers, construction professionals, academics, contractors and workers.  It also includes independent persons and government officials. They work together to monitor its operations.   Under CIC, various committees have been formed to take forward measures to support the long-term development of the industry, including planning and provision of training courses and programmes to meet the manpower demand of the industry.  There are representatives of the Administration in the CIC Council and its various committees.  Further, pursuant to the Ordinance, CIC shall submit to the Secretary for Development (SDEV) a programme of its proposed activities and estimates of its income and expenditure for the next financial year.  Also, CIC shall submit a report on the activities, the statement of accounts and the auditor's report for the financial year to SDEV within six months after the end of the year.  The latter documents will be laid on the table of the Legislative Council as required by the Ordinance.  Moreover, CIC publishes annual reports for release to the public about its achievements in the past year and its future strategic direction.
 
To have a better grasp of the future manpower situation to help formulate long-term training strategy in order to meet the construction manpower demand, CIC has commissioned a manpower forecast study on projecting the supply and demand of construction personnel over a 10-year horizon.  Further, as the industry coordinating body, CIC has been maintaining close liaison with stakeholders to gauge the latest market situation.  It reviews from time to time and adjusts the training programmes timely as necessary to better meet the prevailing market needs.  To train more semi-skilled workers, CIC has launched various initiatives including the Enhanced Construction Manpower Training Scheme and the Contractor Cooperative Training Scheme.  Over the past few years, the training places offered by CIC have been substantially increased to respond to the needs of the industry.

On the proposal for CIC to train workers up to the level of skilled workers, CIC has received views from some industry stakeholders and has prepared to study and discuss the proposal under its Construction Industry Training Board.  During the study, CIC will take account of a number of factors, including the role of CIC in provision of training, the mode of training, the resources implication, etc.

(3) At the time when the idea of setting up CIC was considered, the proposed arrangement would be for CIC to pool together the levies collected from relevant Ordinances as far as possible to facilitate more efficient deployment of resources in performing its various functions.  Currently, CIC collects levies from relevant contractors under section 23 of the Construction Workers Registration Ordinance (Chapter 583) (CWRO) and section 32 of the Construction Industry Council Ordinance (Cap 587). However, as the relevant provisions of the ordinances do not explicitly stipulate that CIC can make use of the levies collected under CWRO at its discretion, we are preparing to explicitly state the above-mentioned arrangement in the proposed amendments to the CWRO.  This amendment will not have any financial implication to CIC.

(4) With the onset of major infrastructure projects and other construction projects entering the construction stage, the construction output will be maintained at a high level in the next few years.  The above-mentioned manpower forecast study conducted by CIC has indicated that the industry is facing increasing demand in construction manpower, ageing and skills mismatch.  Having considered the forecast construction output, retirement of workers and local workers going to work outside Hong Kong, the Administration projected that the industry will need over 30 000 additional construction workers, including over 20 000 skilled workers, in the years to come.  Although we will continue to strive to meet the high manpower demand by local training, re-training and attracting more new entrants to the industry, there is considerable difficulty in training up the required large number of skilled workers in the short-term.  Fresh graduates of the CIC training courses are semi-skilled workers with limited experience.  They need time as well as guidance and instructions from skilled workers to progressively attain the productivity of skilled workers.

It is the Government's policy to ensure the priority of local workers in employment and to safeguard their salaries and benefits at reasonable levels.  On this basis, employers are required to accord priority to local workers in filling available job vacancies.  In the short term, however, the industry is facing a tightening manpower situation.  With due regard to the principle of not affecting the employment and reasonable income levels of local construction workers, we need to make full use of the Supplementary Labour Scheme to import skilled labour timely.  This will not only help meet the manpower demand of the construction works, but also relieve the pressure on the local in-service skilled workers so that there is room for the semi-skilled workers to enhance their skills to achieve the productivity of skilled workers through in-service training.

Attachment:

Ends/Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:30

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