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Use slowdown to boost skills Minister tells stone masons

Bermudian tradesmen need to use the industry slowdown as an opportunity for training, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Kim Wilson said yesterday.

According to the Construction Association of Bermuda (CAOB), few have taken advantage of a masonry programme on offer despite a moratorium on work permits in that field.

“At one point recently there were only four Bermudians enrolled in the masonry course at Bermuda College,” said CAOB vice president Charles Dunstan.

“The most heavily subscribed construction category for work permits is masonry, one of the core trades, with training available both on and off the job.”

Mr Dunstan and Senator Wilson spoke at a press conference yesterday where they urged tradesmen to get more training.

Former Immigration Minister David Burch announced earlier this year that a moratorium would be placed on work permits and renewals for masons, carpenters, landscape gardeners and cleaners.

The decision was made following considerable complaints that construction companies were reluctant to hire Bermudians, Sen Burch said.

Yesterday Mr Dunstan acknowledged that there has been a lack of apprenticeship schemes, training programmes and trade certification in the past.

However the National Centre for Construction Education and Research process has now been introduced to Bermuda schools, he said.

“In partnership with the National Training Board (NTB), courses are currently being offered at the Bermuda College, the Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy.

“The high schools offer the core curriculum, which provides students with a look at each of the core trades.”

Courses and programmes are also available for workers already in the industry, through the sponsorship of the NTB.

“Candidates are able to take courses, fulfill an apprenticeship, solidify their skills, all while holding down a full time job,” Mr Dunstan added.

“This can be a difficult schedule, but you've often heard the saying nothing that's worth anything in life comes easy.”

Sen Wilson said industry analysts believe Bermuda's tradesmen are skilled in traditional building techniques but must continuously train to adopt new techniques and technology.

“We must encourage construction industry professionals to accept the challenge of becoming competitive. They must want to gain the technical and soft skills needed to become more employable.

“Over the past decade, there has been such an abundance of work, that tradesmen have not had the luxury of time to apply to the process of continuous learning.

“Some believe that, as a result, local tradesmen are falling behind other jurisdictions with respect to trade attaining certifications and learning new skills,” she said.

According to Sen Wilson, between 2008 and 2009 the value of new construction projects fell by 38 percent, and the value of work put in place fell by 37 percent.

“As large projects draw to a close, shrinkage in construction is likely to continue in the short term before new projects, like the hospital, come online,” she said. “Our goal today is to ensure that our workforce, more specifically our tradesmen, are prepared and well positioned to take advantage of the eventual upswing.”

l For more information about training opportunities, contact the NTB or CAOB or visit www.constructionbermuda.com.

Photo by Glenn Tucker Senator the Hon. Kim Wilson, JP, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry was joined by Pandora Glasford Executive Director of the National Tarining Board and Mr Charles Dunstan, Vice President of the Construction Association of Bermuda (CAOB) in a press conference to discuss concerns and opportunities in Bermuda's construction industry yesteday moring at the A B Place Media Room.

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Published December 08, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm)

Use slowdown to boost skills Minister tells stone masons

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