A thriving construction industry is indicative of the overall economic prosperity globally, and the same is true  about the Kingdom’s economy. It is the second largest non-oil sector in terms of revenue and ranks first in terms of employment size.

The construction industry has significant potential to achieve greater prosperity. However, the main obstacle to achieving the desired progress is the shortage of skilled workers, who are the backbone of the industry.

The issue of a shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry was highlighted by the Kingdom’s recent shift towards an affordable housing plan. 

Due to high housing prices and a decrease in the average family income, it has become difficult for Saudi citizens to own their own homes. To address this issue, the government has set a fundamental goal in the Kingdom’s 2030 vision to enable 70% of Saudis to own their homes by 2030.

There are several challenges that hinder the development of a highly skilled workforce in the construction industry: 

Bad Rep: Many researchers believe that one of main challenges is the negative perception of the industry. Many young candidates view the construction industry as less attractive and prestigious than other industries. These stereotypes are deeply ingrained, and there is a pressing need to educate people about the available options in the industry. This will help counter the prevailing belief that working in the construction sector is limited to low-skilled workers who only use traditional construction methods.

Skill Gap: Another challenge in developing a highly skilled workforce in the construction industry is the skills gap. This refers to the lack of compatibility between the available skills and the required skills in the industry. For instance, there is an increasing demand for modern construction technologies, but there is a severe shortage of workers with complex digital skills such as data analysis, artificial intelligence, and digitization.

Rush towards Localisation: While this initiative is in the best interest of the Kingdom, the urgency of localizing the sector may lead to an unprecedented shortage of workers. This is because expatriate workers currently constitute a significant percentage of the workforce in various fields within the construction industry.

A race against time:   Adopting a new professional standard to achieve the transitional needs of the sector by developing the capabilities of its workers on the changing and new professions will take a long time, and the process will not be feasible.

One size fits all: The “one size fits all” principle is not compatible with the construction industry, which comprises several sectors such as building construction, infrastructure and construction services (electrical connections, building management systems, heating, air conditioning, plumbing, etc.). Each sector requires different skills, which highlights the need for vocational training and qualification programs that support the specific needs of each sector.

Lack of Accredited Programs: The absence of accredited training programs that address modern construction methods is a significant challenge facing the industry. Without these programs, it is difficult to acquire the competencies needed to advance the sector in the midst of the current technological revolution.

How to overcome these challenges?

To address these challenges, it is essential to categorize employment into two groups. The first group consists of the existing skilled workforce that already has knowledge and extensive experience in the sector. However, they require development, rehabilitation, and training on modern construction methods. The second group includes the targeted workforce that is not yet familiar with the sector and needs to be introduced to everything related to it from A to Z, as well as being trained and rehabilitated to acquire the necessary skills.

Targeted and emerging workforce 

  • To address the first challenge of the industry’s image, it is necessary to improve the current professional standards and clarify the available job opportunities. The sector’s digitization strategy should also be promoted to attract a sustainable workforce, particularly younger people who may view traditional construction work as unappealing.
  • Secondly, providing professional advice in schools and universities is essential to increase awareness of the benefits of working in the construction industry. This can help to promote the sector as a promising professional option with a bright future.
  • Lastly, job seekers should be provided with the right information to make informed decisions about joining the industry. This includes awareness of job paths, available training opportunities, and practical experience gained through field tours of construction sites. By providing these opportunities, individuals can gain realistic experience and insight into the profession before making a decision.

Existing and skilled workforce

To address the skills gap challenge, accredited and intensive training courses must be implemented to improve operational skills during the transition from traditional skills to dealing with modern digital technologies. These courses should keep pace with the constantly evolving products and methodologies to meet the needs of consumers. This will ensure that workers in the industry have the necessary skills to operate effectively in the modern construction sector.

How can the concerned authorities in the Kingdom apply these solutions on the ground?

To ensure a successful transition towards a skilled workforce in the construction industry, an administrative structure must be established that includes the construction sector, vocational education, the higher education sector, government industrial bodies, and all authorities concerned with the industry. This structure should spread awareness of the nature of available jobs and provide support through training courses to build and enhance capabilities and competencies necessary for success in the sector.

To facilitate the transformation process of modern construction technologies for skilled workers, approved training curricula must be set based on studies, researchs, and successful experiences. This will enable the sector to effectively train and integrate emerging workers with the necessary skills to meet the needs of the industry.

The government launched the modern building initiative to address the challenge of achieving affordable housing either by increasing the workforce or creating a revolution in the industry to increase productivity with fewer workers.

Modern Building Initiative objectives:

  • To promote modern construction methods in the Kingdom, it is necessary to hold training courses and workshops that raise contractors’ awareness and empower them with complete knowledge of advanced building materials and digital building machines. This will create an innovative and creative generation capable of utilizing modern construction technologies.
  • To provide comprehensive training, a combination of theoretical lectures and practical field visits to construction sites and technology factories is necessary. Additionally, utilizing normative training technology on the internet and offering consulting services from experts can help workers gain practical experience with modern construction methods.
  • A standard framework should be established to classify technical and non-technical skills and competencies. Non-technical competencies should be assigned to administrative tasks, while the most qualified technicians should be assigned to technical competencies.
  • Standardizing knowledge, skills, and performance across different job roles to facilitate the mobility of the workforce and enable employees to perform multiple tasks effectively. This would allow for a smooth transition between job roles and the assumption of responsibilities with ease.
  • Conducting a continuous assessment of competencies, identifying training needs, treating any gaps with competencies, and guiding employees and employers.
  • To bridge the skills gap, the initiative has designed construction method curricula that include three types: administrative, functional, and behavioral. These curricula are chosen based on sector priorities and include training courses. Additionally, seven approaches have been developed, with one administrative, one behavioral, and five functional curricula, to address the current competencies gap.
  • To reap the benefits of modern construction methods, it is important to consider the advantages for developers, contractors, and the residential system as a whole.

The initiative to promote building technologies has partnered with the Saudi Real Estate Institute to offer specialized courses in modern construction technologies as part of their training simulation program.

For all training courses, please visit the Saudi Real Estate Institute portal, and log in as a new user.

To find out the dates of the training courses and workshops provided by the modern building platform, please visit the website and log in.

Thus, through its initiatives concerned with the construction sector and industry, the Kingdom seeks to keep pace with industrial development and enable the citizen to possess a high -quality housing and a logical cost to meet its aspirations and needs and achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s 2030 vision.

International Trade & Business graduate

AbdelBadie Turjman
An industry analyst with a keen eye for startups leading the digital transformation in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East Region.

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