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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Construction sector works to plug brain drain

PETALING JAYA: The Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) is planning nationwide road shows this year on employment opportunities in the construction sector as part of its efforts to address the country's shortage of skilled workers in the sector.

According to MBAM president Patrick Wong, the association plans to visit schools, colleges and universities to give talks on the career opportunities in the sector.

“The construction sector has been facing a severe brain/skill-drain problem for the past year, especially at the consultancy levels and we foresee it to be worse this year. Although it can’t be solved overnight, we need to start addressing it from the education level,” he told theSun at the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association open house held recently.

For the road shows, MBAM will be working with the Construction Industry Development Board of Malaysia to recruit jobless graduates to be trained with its 600 members nationwide.

Wong said that local workers have been headhunted to take up offers in Singapore since the start of the two large integrated resort developments there, as well as to Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates.

“There is a construction boom worldwide and local workers are attracted by the higher pay and better benefits.

Malaysian workers are highly in demand as they speak English, are multi-skilled and can handle the jobs on site,” he added.

On the rising costs of construction, Wong said MBAM members faced average increases of 12% last year, and expected costs to rise between 18% and 22% this year.

“The major impact will be felt in the first quarter due to the simultaneous launches of projects in this period including the Iskandar Development Region, Northern Corridor Economic Region, Eastern Corridor and Penang Second Link. With so much demand, the cost of labour, machinery and raw materials are bound to increase,” he added.

In order to cushion the impact, he advised members to be more productive and seek out new methods to do construction work.

“For example, they can use skim coats instead of plaster walls to bring costs down. Alternatively, use the type of machinery that requires lesser manpower,” he said.

On the automatic price mechanism for setting new cement prices scheduled to start in January, Wong said that it has not taken effect and believed the reason to be that the actual cost of the raw material has not increased.

By theSun (by Loo Pik Kwan)

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