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Demand for labour rises

Published on Friday, 15 Mar 2013
Edmond Lai
Photo: Laurence Leung

If work on the proposed third runway system does indeed go ahead from 2015, that should fit in neatly with the plans of leading players in the local construction sector, with airport-related work picking up just as several of Hong Kong's 10 major infrastructure projects - such as MTR extensions - are likely to start tailing off.

The major challenge is not so much about securing contracts but finding suitable staff - both professionally qualified and unskilled - to complete all the work that is going to be on hand in the years immediately afterwards.

"Demand for labour is expected to peak in the fourth quarter of 2013 and then stay at a high level for several years," says Edmond Lai, director of human resources for Gammon Construction.

In the meantime, the industry has been coping with the problem of limited labour supply by introducing different training programmes and providing a range of incentives to attract new blood.

For example, a "hire first then train" initiative lets workers gain actual on-site experience and learn about day-to-day practicalities. Training allowances have been made available for trades facing particular shortages. And an "enhanced construction manpower training scheme" has been set up to help upgrade skills and ensure future requirements are adequately met.

"Going forward, the different parts of the construction industry will need to work together, training new talent at a much faster pace to enhance competence and cope with the upsurge in demand," Lai says. "This will not only benefit the current projects, but also contribute to a sustainable future."

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