Gammon Construction – Contractor Cooperative Training Scheme

Apprentices on a construction site

Results & Impacts

  • More than 550 trainees since 2011, spanning 16 trades
  • 88% of trainees qualified as Registered Semi-skilled Workers
  • 64% of Gammon-employed trainees continue to work for the company – a relatively high retention rate in the construction industry
  • Gammon and its sub-contractors have trained up 66% of all trainees who have participated in the CIC’s Contractor Co-operative Training Scheme

Rationale

Construction Industry Council (CIC) data suggests there will be a 10,000 person shortage of skilled labour in the construction sector by 2019. In addition, it is estimated that by 2023, more than 60% of construction sector workers will be aged 50 or over, including 34% who will be 60 or older. In order to curb accelerating current and future skills shortages, the company needs to attract more young people to the sector and equip them with the required skills.

Key Aspects

Through the Contractor Co-operative Training Scheme (CCTS), Gammon provides training in frontline skills covering 16 trades including bar bending, crane operating, plastering and surveying. On-the-job training lasts between one and six months (dependent on trade) and covers theory, safety and practical training, with trainees mentored by skilled tradespeople who have at least five years’ post-qualification experience.

Continuous trainee assessment, certification and progression are integral to the scheme. Trainees attend practical tests upon completing their technical training, conducted onsite and externally assured by CIC. Those who pass become Registered Semi-skilled Workers, a standard recognised across the industry. After  two more years of technical training and experience, workers take a further test to gain Registered Skilled Worker status.  To provide additional motivation, trainees are rewarded for their efforts at each stage of their progression.

Partnership

The Construction Industry Council launched CCTS in 2011. CIC provides practical course content, procedural and administration templates, training-end assessment and awarding of certificates. It also disperses subsidies, financed by the Hong Kong Government, to support both trainees and employers, in order to encourage greater uptake of the scheme.

Gammon actively encourages sub-contractors to join the CCTS. The company explains to them how the scheme can help address industry-wide skills shortages, and provides administrative assistance, for example helping to complete applications. Its human resources team, which manages the delivery of the scheme, regularly visits sub-contractors and trainees onsite, holding joint meetings with project teams to identify further opportunities for support and improvement.

Success Factors

It is important to be clear with trainees about their progression routes and future prospects. For example, a Formwork Carpenter Trainee, after successfully completing the trade test, will become an Assistant Formwork Carpenter, and then a Formwork Carpenter. After gaining full Registered Skilled Worker status, they can progress to Skilled Formwork Carpenter, Foreman and then Supervisor and beyond. This structured progression framework provides an incentive for trainees to succeed.

In the highly competitive environment of the construction industry, a caring culture helps to sustain high levels of retention and ensure trainees complete the course. In addition to career development opportunities, regular meetings with trainees facilitate two-way communication and demonstrate a caring attitude. Gammon also provides site nurses to monitor the health of trainees and employees.

Challenges

The scheme requires the steadfast dedication of the supply chain. Sub-contractors are required to undertake a number of different tasks, including preparing a comprehensive training proposal for submission to CIC, recruiting new trainees, and paying extra care and attention to guarantee their safety and progression. The administrative and financial support provided by Gammon helps to reduce the burden of managing and delivering all this.

On the other hand, significant additional time, training and financial resources are required from Gammon staff to ensure successful implementation. Recruiting competent mentors can be a challenge, especially in the midst of an existing labour shortage within the industry. To address this and transfer wisdom across generations, retired former employees are invited to deliver on-site training and help ‘train the trainers’.