Steadily building things up

By Wong Yat-hei

Problem-solving skills and creativity, as well as advanced technical skills, are important for bamboo scaffolding craftsmen

By Wong Yat-hei |

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Lo Chun-ho practises tying the nylon strips that hold the bamboo sticks in place as part of his training, which will eventually make him a craftsman.
Bamboo scaffolding is the signature of Hong Kong's building industry. Lo Chun-ho greatly admires the craft, and is learning to be a craftsman at the Construction Industry Council (CIC).

 

Getting started:

The CIC offers a one-year training course in building scaffolding. This includes skills such as knot-tying, which is very important for a bamboo scaffolding craftsman to master. The course also teaches occupational safety.

 

Moving up:

After graduation, students gain the intermediate trade test qualification. This makes them eligible to work as apprentices. Newcomers are not allowed to climb the bamboo scaffolding; instead, they start by passing bamboo sticks to more experienced workers on the scaffolding.

Apprentices with four years of work experience, who have passed the certificate of trade test, become craftsmen.

Bamboo scaffolding craftsmen build scaffolding for Chinese opera theatres, high-rise buildings, and domestic renovation projects. Although a bamboo scaffolding craftsman knows how to build and remove the bamboo structure, two separate subcontractors are employed to do the work.

 

Race to the top:

Because Hong Kong is so crowded, scaffolding craftsmen often have to think outside the box when creating their structures. It takes years of experience and creativity to design and build successful scaffolding.

 

Rewards and benefits:

Workers with the intermediate trade test qualification make HK$800 a day. Those with the certificate of trade test qualification make around HK$1,500 a day.

 

A day in the life:

Workers report to the site at about 8.30am. An experienced craftsman leads a team of 10 to 13 men on a job. From noon until 1pm there is a lunch break, and a tea break at 3.15pm. Work ends before 6pm. Whenever workers leave the premises, they need to ensure the bamboo sticks are kept well covered and in a safe place so that passers-by don't trip over them.

Being a bamboo scaffolding craftsman is a physically demanding job, and requires working outdoors.

 

Jargon

Nylon strips: These are used to tie bamboo sticks together. Workers need to practise how to secure knots efficiently.

Chinese opera bamboo shed: Traditional Chinese opera is performed in a temporary theatre built from bamboo scaffolding. Building opera theatres is one of the specialisations of a bamboo scaffolding craftsman.