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Skilled manpower shortage needs urgent attention - MBAM

KUALA LUMPUR: Human resources remained a crucial issue for the construction industry, especially with regards to the shortage of skilled workers, said Master Builders Association of Malaysia (MBAM) president Kwan Foh Kwai.

"If the country is to head towards a high-income economy, then these are issues that need to be settled soon. This includes issues related to foreign workers and manpower," Kwan told theedgeproperty.com.

Kwan, who was recently elected by MBAM for the 2011/12 term, called for a balance between efforts to reduce the number of foreign workers with the industry's needs without affecting the productivity of the industry.

Kwan: The government should also consider extending their work permits for skilled foreign workers once their five-year permits end.Kwan, who is the managing director for Sunway Construction Sdn Bhd, said MBAM would continue to appeal to the government to ease the difficulties faced by contractors concerning the lack of skilled construction workers.

"It is a known fact that to date, the industry has tried but has not been very successful in attracting locals to work in the construction industry," he added.

Nevertheless, MBAM will continue to urge the government to provide training for local workers, to attract local participants in the construction industry as well as transform selected technical and vocational schools into schools where construction-related trades are taught.

"This will produce more local talent for the construction industry with better productivity and quality and provide an alternative to reduce our over reliance on foreign workers," he said.

He added that the government should also consider extending their work permits for skilled foreign workers once their five-year permits end.

"The government should consider legalising foreign construction workers who are skilled but may have overstayed under an Amnesty Programme to ensure that skilled construction workers can continue to work

"However, ongoing efforts should still be carried out to reduce illegal foreign workers and unskilled workers," Kwan said, adding that it will be difficult to replace foreign workers with local workers or re-employ them after they have left the country.

Kwan also suggested reducing the import duties for heavy machineries and spare parts "in particular, machines with bigger capacities and efficiency" as incentives to industry players to reduce the numbers of workers.

"The industrialied building system (IBS) should also be encouraged to shift some of the construction operation from site to a factory environment for a safer, cleaner and productive industry or reduce the image of a 3D (Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult) industry," he added.

To continuously enhance the level of productivity and quality, Kwan also called on the construction industry to seriously address inefficient and ineffective practices in contractor's registration and administration procedures, procurement methods, contracting approaches, construction methodology, planning submission and building plan approval procedures.
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