25,211 workers in construction sector

|     Syazwani Hj Rosli     |

THERE are a total of 25,211 workers in the construction industry alone, made up of 22,510 foreigners, 2,141 locals and 560 permanent residents, according to statistics from the Employers/Employees Census 2017 compiled by the Labour Department.

The data applies to a total of 1,777 active business entities within the construction industry in Brunei Darussalam.

Minister of Development Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar highlighted the information at the Institution of Surveyors, Engineers and Architects (PUJA) Brunei’s Mid-Term AGM 2018/2019 and launch of the PUJA Journela, Digital CPD Management System and Online Payment Programme at the Bertabur Hall of the Ministry of Development (MoD), Old Airport, Berakas yesterday.

According to the minister, PUJA and the MoD have been reaching out to all strategic partners and stakeholders to share knowledge and insights on construction-related issues and to ensure that building processes adhere to industry guidelines.

“There are many aspects in the construction industry that make up the buildings we design and build,” he said. “The most important aspect is the safety, health and security of buildings, especially public buildings such as schools and educational institutions. Qualified persons are expected to do their due diligence to ensure buildings built are in compliance with the Building Control Order, and the safety and health of the public is a priority.”

Minister of Development Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar delivering his speech
Minister of Development Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar in a group photo. – PHOTOS: SYAZWANI HJ ROSLI

He continued, “As key players in the industry, we shall not take this lightly and should mutually come up with ways and strategies to be more efficient and rational in improving our services to clients. We should always strengthen and streamline our building guidelines, making it adaptable as it is one of the tools that we refer to when it comes to handling building processes.

“We shall not compromise the safety and security of buildings as it is one of the vital components, be they houses, shopping complexes, or schools.”

He noted further that the ministry is actively building on efforts to deliver strategic priorities where fundamental changes are required and the way the construction industry operates.

He explained that the first goal of the strategic direction is to achieve effective governance of the industry’s policies and guidelines in preparation for ever-changing market and technological conditions, be this in the regional or global economy.

The initiatives include the alignment of policies and regulations to improve the governance and cost-effectiveness of projects implemented within reasonable timeframes, and the strengthening of the Occupancy Permit (OP) process and procedures before they can be issued to the client or building owner, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suhaimi said.

“The second goal is to optimise the capacity-building of human resources and develop local contractors through stakeholder engagement and providing the framework to support local participation, he added. “The initiatives currently undertaken include supporting local business development and enhancing the skill levels of the construction workforce through education and training.

“The MoD has also put forth its courses of action to review existing and develop new construction guidelines and procedures. In addition, it will also promote the development of construction companies and the local workforce through participation.”

The minister highlighted as well the issue of youth unemployment, a reality he noted is connected to challenges in the construction industry.

“We hope to tackle this issue with a positive spirit. These critical challenges that are brought upon us cannot be combatted alone in the construction industry, especially in line with the needs of the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

“Creating a modern, digitised economy in Brunei requires building, creating jobs, up-skilling and re-skilling, and generating economic growth. Professionals from all private and public strategic partners within the construction sector are the heart of this transformation.”

The minister said to achieve this, youth mentoring should be more widely encouraged, noting that reassuring and motivating the country’s young people can do wonders for their mindset and morale, and positively affect their employability.

“Companies, community groups and individual volunteers can get involved (in this effort),” he said. “For instance, companies can connect with jobseekers by providing mentors and apprenticeships, and build on the concept of ‘talent incubators’ for people of diverse backgrounds and skills.

“This will help improve businesses and give our youth a sense of responsibility and purpose, as well as more routes into the workplace. This can help ensure that our youth have the skills they need to get into work and that Brunei’s employers and employees are well-placed to adapt to the workplaces of the future.”

The minister also highlighted the three priorities under the MoD’s Local Business Development Framework: Local Ownership, Local Business Prioritisation and Local Employment.

He said under these priorities, the ministry’s objectives are “to identify policy solutions that will advance its agenda”, noting that “this contributes to the facilitation of procedural enablers for local businesses to be awarded projects and to identify critical and viable job opportunities for locals.