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New database matches employers with foreign construction workers

SINGAPORE — A new database of foreign construction workers could be the key to retaining experienced staff, in an industry where one in three new work permit holders are said to be repatriated after completing their two-year contract.

SINGAPORE — A new database of foreign construction workers could be the key to retaining experienced staff, in an industry where one in three new work permit holders are said to be repatriated after completing their two-year contract.

Today (Oct 13), the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) launched the Foreign Construction Worker Directory System. Foreign construction workers who have up to 90 days left on their work permit may list their skill sets, qualifications and experience on the directory for a fee of S$15. Employers fork out an annual subscription fee of S$2,000 to be able to access the database and recruit jobseekers.

While SCAL — and its appointed managing agent Intercorp Solutions — facilitates by linking up the two parties, the interview and hiring process is between employers and workers. Workers who are successful in their job hunt pay an additional S$150.

The directory will yield several benefits in the long run, said SCAL president Kenneth Loo today at BuildTech Asia, a three-day trade show for building and construction industry players.

“It brings productivity gains with the reduction in recruitment time, repatriation costs, and the better matching of workers to meet projects’ needs,” he said. The S$2,000 annual subscription fee that firms pay is “economical”, given the savings in time and the experienced pool of potential employees, he said.

“When we talk about productivity, by sending all those experienced workers in Singapore back, it’s a step backwards,” said Member of Parliament (Nee Soon GRC) Lee Bee Wah, who was at the launch.

“This is always helpful. Companies that need workers can go to this platform, and the learning curve for workers is minimal.”

Tight deadlines, manpower crunch and inexperience have been blamed for workplace injuries on construction sites. According to the 2014 Workplace Safety and Health Statistics report, 27 construction workers died in site accidents last year, out of a total of 60 workplace fatalities reported.

Mr Edward Wee, managing director of Wee Chwee Huat Scaffolding and Construction, is keen to use the new directory to hire 20 experienced workers. “Without this system, I have to go through an agent and go down personally to interview and select. It’s a huge roundabout, when the ultimate aim is simply to hire a good worker,” said Mr Wee. Such a process could take up to 10 days, and Mr Wee estimates he could save up to half the time by tapping the database.

Since the start of the month, Intercorp Solutions has held four roadshows at foreign worker dormitories, and received over 1,000 sign-ups from workers. However, only about 100 of them are within the 90-day eligibility window. The rest of the workers may still log onto — or download the app after its launch next month — to get related news, or to find out about upcoming cricket matches.

Up to 600 roadshows will be held at foreign workers dormitories and recreation centres over the next year, said Intercorp Solutions director Sam Tay.

He is targeting 6,000 workers and 1,000 to 1,500 employers for the database within a year, and the first briefing session for employers will take place this Friday.

Since June, the Manpower Ministry has relaxed regulations to allow construction workers to find new jobs at the end of their work permit period, without first having to be repatriated.

During the trade show today, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) announced several initiatives. For instance, the authority will be channelling S$2.6 million towards research programmes on construction productivity, parked under a research fund by the National Development Ministry. Separately, there will be more funding for Virtual Design and Construction projects.

The tender evaluation framework for Government construction projects has been revised to increase the productivity weightage from the current three to six per cent, to 10 per cent from next January.

The BCA Academy has also launched a Masters degree programme in International Construction Management with the University of Florida. It begins next March for the first intake of 20 to 30 students.

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