Specialized firms get support to promote Bhutanese professionals in Construction

The government has launched seven specialized firms to promote an orderly growth of local construction professionals and to encourage specialization and create employment opportunity for youth.

The seven specialized firms will engage those youths who have studied various construction trades in Technical Training Institutes. They will also engage those trained under the Build Bhutan Project (BBP).

The firms will be certified by the Construction Development Board (CDB) after meeting the requirements and they will take up repair and maintenance works of the government. From 20 agencies in the country, they have received 63 repairing and maintenance work packages, of which they have awarded only 13 work packages, worth Nu 11.201 mn to the 7 specialized firms.

Seven specialized firms will cover six construction trades of electrical house wiring, plumbing, construction carpentry, steel fabrication, masonry and building painting.

Though they have received 19 interested groups, CDB could only certify seven firms as they have fulfilled all the criteria.

After many foreign workers left the country, it has created an vacancy gap of around 11,817 workers across the sector, the majority of which are in the construction sector.

Minister of Works and Human Settlement Dorji Tshering during the launch said that the country has been depending upon foreign workers and for that matter they are coming up with various initiatives to combat the labor issue. 

“We have to focus on developing construction sector in the country as it can fill the gap of unemployment and can boost country’s economy. And this is the right time to do so and this is why we came up with a specialized firm program,” Lyonpo added. 

He also said they have the budget to ensure the sustainability of the construction sector in the country and they have created opportunities for the unemployed youths to serve the country better and make their living.

“Therefore, we urge everyone to come forward and grab the opportunity. We are glad to see many youths coming forward. Let’s together wish to see a day when we need not have to import foreign laborers in the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Director of CDB Phub Rinzin said that though there are employment opportunities in the construction sector, the available works are mostly being taken up by foreign workers. Moreover, lack of skills coupled with dismissive attitude of Bhutanese towards manual jobs are major challenges in the sector.

He said, “To resort to fulfilling the gap, BBP was approved by the government and specialized firm is one component of BBP. The specialized firm will take on a bigger role of professionalizing the construction sector by supplying skilled workforce in all the regions.”

The employers prefer foreign workers as its cheaper and work quality is better than Bhutanese he said, adding that those are partly true as the Bhutanese did not have the opportunities to enhance their skills further.

Therefore, he said, “We are in the process of mobilizing master trainers from abroad. The master trainers from their own trade will train the groups in specialized firms and they will be moving around, from one to another specialized firms. Government will pay for the master trainers.”

He said, the finance ministry has frozen the government maintenance work budget trying to make such packages. As the day progress, specialized firms shall take on subcontracting works from the main principal contractors ensuring maximum participation of Bhutanese in construction. 

The specialized firms would be getting various supports for their sustainability in long run. Their registration fees are waived off, works will be awarded directly, they will be given 25 percent (10 percent will be deposited as their PF) wage top-up for those engaged in specialized firms, work dress, PPE’s and power tools.

Besides those, they can avail low interest credit loan facility from CSI bank and they can also avail credit guarantee scheme from BDBL and other banks with no collateral.  

In future, “We see the firms to take up higher skilled jobs such as in HVAC, lift and excavator expertise, plaster of paris, steel scaffolding and formworks.”

Seven firms have employed 100 plus youths and they are expecting another 10 specialized firm by end of October. They will take in specialized firms with no limit, however after fulfilling all the criteria. Even if they have 150 specialized firms they will not be able to fill the gap, he added. 

The taskforce led by Department of National Properties, Ministry of Finance is in the process of packaging works for Phase II to be awarded to more firms as they see through the formal certification from CDB.

The specialized firms can take up both private and government work. The program was introduced as an important feature of the Economic Contingency Plan Series I.

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