Manpower shortfall in the construction industry

Wednesday, 22 August 2012 02:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Following are excerpts of the address by A/Plnr Deshabandu Surath Wickramasinghe, President of the Chamber of Construction Industry, Sri Lanka, at the Colombo School of Technology Graduation:

I am pleased to be present as the Chief Guest at the first Graduation Ceremony of 30 HND Graduates who will receive their Diplomas.

The Colombo School of Construction Technology (CSCT) established to train persons both Professional and Technical is timely and appropriate to facilitate the much needed expertise to strengthen the construction industry.

Furthermore, the CSCT has obtained accreditation from international organisations such as EDEXCEL, CIOB of UK as well as registration from the National Vocational Centre, which will enable students to obtain both international and local qualifications to seek employment both in Sri Lanka and overseas.

To progress so fast within a short period of time is a unique achievement. In addition, they have obtained accreditation from Salford University, Manchester UK to conduct A BSc Hon Degree Course in Quantity Surveying which is recognised by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

The Chamber of Construction Industry, Sri Lanka (CCI) is very privileged to be associated with the activities and progress of the Colombo School of Technology. The CCI has also been pioneers outside the Government agencies for conducting skills training programmes for the unskilled work force in Sri Lanka. We have trained in different parts of the country close on 5,000 youth in these programmes.

CCI is fully aware of the challenges facing the construction industry. Those of you who are from the construction industry will agree with me, that there is a massive shortage of construction professionals such as, service engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers and construction managers and several other technically skilled personnel, such as, electricians, plumbers, masons, fabricators and from other trades.  

I can see some of the leaders of the construction industry in the audience and I am confident that they will agree with me that with proper publicity, canvassing and an effective promotional campaign nationally, with audio visual and other methods we could give a positive message to the younger generation.

Today, the construction industry with a scientific base and an advanced technology which keeps changing frequently with new eco friendly and energy saving designs, new materials being introduced to the market, construction methods and techniques which provides speed in construction, and are more cost effective, environmentally friendly are transforming or revolutionising the construction industry. Therefore, we must be ready to meet this challenge with a younger and vibrant professional expertise.

On behalf of the CCI, I am pleased to inform Prof. Weddikkara that CCI would like to be associated with the Colombo School of Technology and give our fullest support and cooperation not only to broad base the educational structure but also to accelerate the training programmes that has already commenced by increasing the number of trainees from what it is today to at least five times more within the next three years to meet Sri Lanka’s current and future needs.

One problem that construction industry is facing is to recruit students at the undergraduate level. For some reason, despite the construction industry employment being so much better than some of the other professions, there is reluctance among the young to take to this profession. This we must try and overcome.   

One way this objective could be achieved is to establish close links with the Ministry of Higher Education and convince them that the construction industry could provide a new direction, a new challenge to the students to embark on a new profession. Especially, at a time when 250,000 A/L students pass out and only 25,000 are lucky to enter universities, the construction industry could easily in the different disciplines absorb at least 500 if not more.

As we are aware, the construction industry recorded a 17% growth in the 3Q of 2011. We project that by 2012 onwards, there will be an average rate of growth up to 25% in the years to come. Therefore, CCI believes the Ministry of Higher Education should support organisations such as, CSCT to commence construction industry related training speedily.

We are now on a boom footing with tourism, housing, commercial, mega social and physical infrastructure projects happening all over Sri Lanka. Therefore, manpower shortfall in the construction industry will be a pivotal issue to be addressed by policymakers. In this connection, CCI will be most pleased to coordinate with all its stakeholders in meetings the human resources needs of this industry.