Xuereb on worker shortage
Holdings Chairman, Angelo Xuereb, speaking to The Business Times highlighted
the employment woes currently facing the construction industry.
Given todays circumstances, Mr Xuereb warns that the situation
will only be aggravated with the onset of government and private projects
both already underway and in the pipeline.
He explained that, while preference is always given to Maltese workers,
if this shortage continues, the industry would have no other option
but to turn to foreign workers.
He explains, "However, we have to remember the employment of a
few foreigners in the construct industry will serve to generate work
to the related trades, where many Maltese work."
Mr Xuereb cites among the problems in securing local workers to work
in the industry the fact that such workers are migrating to other industries,
successive administrations bid to increase the standard of living,
new construction systems that Maltese workers are not trained to use
and the fact that construction trade training in schools is in a state
of utter neglect.
He explains that these difficulties are being faced by all the main
contractors operating in Malta's construction industry.
He explains, "The decrease in construction activity which has been
witnessed over the last five years resulted in construction workers
migrating to other industries. Now that the industry is picking up momentum
once more, this movement of labour supply is being felt."
Explaining his views on how each successive administration has endeavoured
to increase the standard of living for the citizens, Mr Xuereb emphasises
that youths are therefore being automatically attracted to jobs in other
"As happened in other developed countries, Malta is now facing
the situation where low-income trades have to be supplied with foreign
workers. Furthermore, parents usually do not wish to see their children
joining the industry of hardship, the label given by many
to the construction industry.
However, technology itself has compounded the problem in that great
improvements in tools and construction systems have been achieved during
the last few years. According to Mr Xuereb, "We now have the situation
where large contractors have invested significant sums in new systems
but there are no local workers trained to work on these systems, especially
form work. We must therefore import foreign workers to work on these
systems and at the same time to transfer their know-how to local workers.
"The shortage in local construction workers is already being felt
today. This shortage will aggravate further when large infrastructural
projects, such as Cottonera, Manoel Island and Tigne', the Sea Passenger
Terminal and the Valletta City Gate, get in full swing. There are also
a number of large private developments in the pipeline."
Mr Xuereb contends that training in the construction trades is currently
in utter neglect without a single person being trained at school to
take up work in construction. He explains, "We encourage that there
should be more training. The Federation of Building and Civil Engineering
Contractors (FOBC) is currently working closely with the Employment
and Training Corporation (ETC) to create the type of training needed
in the construction industry. We encourage youths to join this industry
which has changed a lot for the better during recent years."
"There is also a great shortage in qualified personnel in the construction
industry. In this regard, the University of Malta should consider the
creation of courses to produce graduates in project management construction
management and other similar careers.
"The industry will then at least be able to find qualified persons
and not have to rely mostly on workers we have come up through the ranks
over a long number of years."
Making reference to the now infamous interviewing incident at the ETC,
he explains, "The scarcity in the supply of local construction
workers was confirmed during the last few weeks when together with other
main contractors, we interviewed 590 unemployed persons registering
at the ETC to find work in the construction industry.
"The outcome of the interviews was as follows: 177 did not even
bother to attend the interview, 252 were found to be unsuitable for
work in the construction industry, while the remaining 161 could be
considered to take up work in this industry. Together with the other
contractors, we are now gradually sending for those identified as possibly
being appropriate for the construction industry to assess better their
Unfortunately we are encountering the same problems we met during the
initial interviews once more, i.e. many just do not turn up or state
that they do not want work in the construction industry. At the end
of the whole process we hope to find a handful of persons really willing
to give the construction industry a try, at least!"David Lindsay