More glamorous image for Hong Kong’s construction industry in the pipeline with STEM effort

New group sounds call for more young talent in sector and the need to embrace technology

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 9:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 9:01am

Members of Hong Kong’s construction industry, a sector known to be traditionally averse to the adoption of new technology, are calling for young blood to join its ranks to keep pace with the fast-changing times.

The newly formed Institute of Construction said it hoped to convince new talent that their sector offered many opportunities and welcomed technological applications.

It predicted that Hong Kong would need about 5,000 to 10,000 more skilled construction workers in the next five to six years.

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The group operates under the statutory Construction Industry Council, a representative body for the sector, and has launched a STEM Alliance with 68 local secondary schools.

The alliance is aimed at helping teachers in secondary schools by providing support and teaching resources that would aid pupils in the understanding of STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – concepts, especially those related to construction and engineering.

This would be done through thematic seminars, workshops and competitions.

On Tuesday, Professor Lee Chack-fan, chairman of the institute’s management board, said there was high demand for STEM talent in the industry and that the alliance would help Hong Kong prepare the next generation of workers to ensure long-term competitiveness.

Lee said the government’s push in this area would become “more effective with our progressional knowledge, enthusiasm and closer communication”, adding that the school subjects were closely entwined with the construction industry.

“STEM creates architectural, engineering and construction opportunities. We are strengthening those applications in [our] training,” he said.

The latest technological applications that the institute hoped young people would be inspired by included robotics, 3D building information modelling (BIM), prefabricated construction and drone and virtual reality surveying.

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Institute director Dr Francis Wong Kwan-wah said that while many new engineering projects down the line would be less labour intensive, a lot of them, including those in repair and maintenance, would be dependent on skilled workers.

“One objective of our institute is to raise the image and profile of the industry. By [setting up this alliance] we hope more youngsters will consider joining us,” he said.

One objective is to raise the image and profile of the industry
Dr Francis Wong, Institute of Construction

About HK$300 billion (US$38.3 billion) in construction output has been forecast in the next five to 10 years, according to official data, but 40 per cent of registered construction workers are already over the age of 50.

Undersecretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin said the efforts were in line with the Education Bureau’s push to promote STEM education in schools.

“Everyone’s talking about smart cities now so we need more people with these professional skills,” she said.

“Hopefully we can let more primary and secondary school students see what the latest technologies are and how relevant they are to our society.”