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Fiji Master Builders Association President Vijay Raghwan says Fiji’s construction industry can resolve its chronic trade skills shortage by following Singapore’s example.
The founder of Raghwan Construction, is also one of the local construction industry’s enduring personalities and current President of the Fiji Master Builders Association (FMBA), which is also a member of umbrella body, the Construction Industry Council. (CIC)
Also one of the original graduates of the Derrick Institute around 1970, the veteran builder says funds accumulated over the years from the 1 percent TPAF training levy should be reinvested into more targeted industry based training.
“Back then I did night classes in architectural drafting and estimating because there was a big need for more locals to do these jobs after independence,” says Mr Raghwan.
With training as one of the key issues to be discussed at the upcoming CIC June 14th to 16th conference at Warwick Fiji, Mr Raghwan says while there is some value to short term training trade certificates, it needs to be reviewed into longer specialized training.
“It’s good some employers are taking full advantage of the 150% tax concession for taking on apprentices for 6 months, but in a hands-on industry like construction, I would strongly recommend at this CIC conference that this training be stretched to 3 years and with at least 40% in the form of industry placements and 60% in classrooms.” he added.
Mr Raghwan says stretching the tax rebate over the three year period can also allow employers enough time to recover their investment in training.
Citing the lack of discipline and ethics within the workforce as another serious concern, Mr Raghwan has even suggested cadet training or maybe even compulsory military training like in Singapore to instill “discipline and structure.”
“That is one of Singapore’s basic ingredient for such a highly productive, disciplined and focused workforce,” he said.
Mr Raghwan says unless entry requirements for vocational training is reviewed by policy makers, skills shortages will continue.
“From my 40 years in the industry I have found that most, if not all of our workers are those that may not have reached form six, but are good with their hands, and with on the job training over the years have become very skilled tradespeople,” says Mr Ragwan.
“The reality is that a student with a 6th form pass will most likely choose higher university education instead of picking up a hammer or learning block laying in vocational training,” he adds.
Mr Raghwan says because we are also no longer just training people for the local job market, it is impossible to try and stop skilled tradespeople from migrating.
He says a little more investment into institutions such as Monfort Boys Town could help address some of the industry’s training needs.

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