THE construction industry is one of the largest economic sectors in Brunei which provides a lot of job opportunities.
As we know, the Temburong Bridge, currently under construction, is a remarkable engineering feat. But, it is disappointing to note that only a very few local companies are participating in the project. Moreover, resources and raw materials needed for the project are outsourced from other countries. This means that Brunei companies are not going to benefit from this big opportunity to develop their workforce and expand their talents. But, if given the opportunity, how effectively can Bruneians participate in the project? Are our youths really prepared to take up jobs in the construction sector? I have doubts.
Many are under the impression that industry work is all about working under the Sun and dealing with dirt. It is this image of the industry that has repelled the youths from working in the construction industry. Having first-hand experience in the UK’s construction and engineering sector, I have great appreciation for various systems the country has set up to promote the multi-billion industry. One of them is the Considerate Constructors Scheme which aims to improve the on-site working condition that includes providing welfare facilities – from running tap water to shower rooms. Another part of the scheme is arranging visits to developing construction sites for primary schoolchildren to build their interest in infrastructure and engineering as well as promote awareness on this scheme among local communities.
The message I am trying to convey is that youths are generally inclined towards office jobs that have been declining in a competitive economy. The turnover rate of these jobs is high. Other opportunities should be developed instead of encouraging more people to sit in air-conditioned offices when it is clearly not working.
The construction industry has been one of the non-oil and gas sectors which generates major income for Brunei. There is a need for making fresh initiatives, other than by academic institutions, to encourage the next generation to take up jobs in the construction industry. Otherwise, Brunei companies will never be able to compete with mega Korean and Chinese companies in multi-billion-dollar mega infrastructure projects in the future.
We need a fresh start – from the roots.