By Ir Albert Cheng Ting-ning
Since 2020, Hong Kong’s construction industry has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Hong Kong Government with the Construction Industry Council has launched copious measures to help the industry. By providing financial supports to embracing technological development, the government ensures that the industry is looking at a promising transition in the future.
BASIC STAGE: FINANCIAL SUPPORT
Financial support was considered as one of the most practical things to do as the epidemic became a problem for all industries. In that regards, in February 2020, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) launched the Construction Industry “Anti-Epidemic Fund” (AEF) provided by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), which accepted applications from eligible registered construction workers and enterprises such as consultants, contractors and subcontractors.
In the early stage of the pandemic, the main purpose of the subsidy was to fund workers to purchase personal protective equipment to maintain good personal hygiene. Each eligible registered worker could apply for a one-off subsidy of HKD1,500 through Safety App mobile application in a simple and efficient way. Meanwhile, eligible consultants, contractors, registered specialist trade contractors and registered subcontractors could apply for a one-off subsidy of HKD50,000 to enhance workplace cleanliness and sanitation for epidemic prevention.
FUNDING FOR WORKERS’ UPSKILLING
In line with the relief measures for labours under the 2020-21 budget with the provision as much as HKD70 million, the CIC launched the “CIC Relief Fund – Multi-skills Training Scheme for Registered Workers” through the Hong Kong Institute of Construction (HKIC).
The Multi-Skills Training Scheme aims to support registered construction workers who were underemployed or temporarily unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers are encouraged to acquire new skills and enhance their competitiveness to prepare for further development in the industry. Additionally, it also helps to assist construction workers while they are in-between jobs, thereby it would be easier for them to switch to other trades with manpower shortage or for better job prospects.
The Multi-Skills Training Scheme consists of 21 full-time short courses, three of which also offer classes in English to cater for non-Cantonese speaking workers. The courses under this scheme will commence from 18 January 2021 to 17 January 2022.
As the AEF has been distributed effectively to the construction sectors, we believe that the industry can survive the difficult times. Although there was a drop in the first half of 2020, we can see that the positive trend has bounced back again, as we keep monitoring the on-site workers. We also need to move past the labour-intensive, time-consuming conventional ways.
We have been talking about it these past few years and it became more relevant nowadays that it is important to have more technology integration in the construction industry. The CIC has been striving to collaborate with key stakeholders in developing and enhancing the CIC BIM Standards to meet the local industry needs. Even if digitalisation has not been commonly adopted, it has received increasing attention in the construction industry with a growing trend of digital technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) as well as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) that are also gaining entry to the industry.
IR ALBERT CHENG TING-NING
Executive Director of the Construction Industry Council (CIC)
Ir Albert Cheng is a seasoned construction professional with over 30 years’ experience in the planning, design, management and implementation of mega public works projects. Prior to joining the Construction Industry Council, Ir CHENG was the Head of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Project Management Office of the Highways Department and the Head of the New Territories East Development Office of the Civil Engineering and Development Department. Ir Cheng is the Immediate Past President of the Hong Kong Institution of Highways and Transportation and currently a Fellow Member of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers.