New online job portal to match construction bosses with foreign workers

Intercorp business and product development consultant Kelvin Koh (right, in white shirt) demonstrating how the Foreign Construction Worker Directory System works to BCA chairman Quek See Tiat (second from right) and Scal president Kenneth Loo (third
Intercorp business and product development consultant Kelvin Koh (right, in white shirt) demonstrating how the Foreign Construction Worker Directory System works to BCA chairman Quek See Tiat (second from right) and Scal president Kenneth Loo (third from right) at the BuildTech Asia conference on Oct 13, 2015. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - An online job portal for foreign workers is among new initiatives to drive up flagging productivity in the construction sector.

The Singapore Contractors Association (Scal) launched its Foreign Construction Worker Directory System at BuildTech Asia on Tuesday.

BuildTech is a three-day regional trade show for the built environment, organised by Sphere Exhibits and hosted by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) at Singapore Expo Hall 3.

The new online directory, developed by solutions provider Intercorp, will enable skilled foreign construction workers to list their skill sets, thus allowing construction firms to better source for trained workers reaching the end of their work permits.

The directory, which is supported by the Manpower Ministry and the Infocomm Development Authority, has search features allowing employers to narrow down their search for workers by skill level, years of construction experience, trade skills certification, and so on.

Scal president Kenneth Loo said this would reduce costs for employers, such as for repatriation and re-training workers. Work permit holders would also be able to secure new jobs swiftly without a lapse in earnings or having to pay high recruitment fees to agents.

Said Mr Loo: "Scal believes in using technology to increase the productivity within the sector, in particular, the efforts to retain skilled and experienced workers in the Singapore construction sector."

More than 1,000 workers have signed up so far for the directory, which cost over $200,000 to develop.

Membership is free but workers must pay a registration fee of $15 to be considered for jobs during the 90-day window before their permits expire. Upon a successful match with an employer, they must pay $150. Employers pay the directory a $2,000 annual subscription fee.

At the opening ceremony of Singapore Construction Productivity Week, which BuildTech Asia is part of, BCA announced a higher focus on productivity in its tender process.

A revised tender evaluation framework for government construction projects will have the weightage of productivity raised to 10 per cent of the overall score next year, up from 3 to 6 per cent now.

This will give firms with good productivity records in past projects the advantage when tendering.

BCA also launched funding of $2.6 million for research institutes and industry players to develop and disseminate construction technologies that improve productivity.

Additional funding will also be given to projects that adopt Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) technology, in which construction is rehearsed in a virtual environment before being carried out at the actual site.

The BCA Academy is also starting a new masters programme in International Construction Management with the University of Florida.

The programme will equip construction directors and managers with concepts such as lean construction and VDC. Applications are now open and the first intake will be around next March.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg