Skill cards for construction workers launched

Skill cards for plasterers, tile layers, assistant electricians and plumbers launched, scheme to include 107 trades in the next five years

(from left) Evarist Bartolo, Charles Buhagiar and Helene Dalli
(from left) Evarist Bartolo, Charles Buhagiar and Helene Dalli

The government has launched a skills card for the construction sector, with the cards first available for four trades, namely for plasterers, tile layers, assistant electricians and plumbers.

But the scheme will be rolled out to another 110 trades in the next five years.

“The launch follows a public consultation which started in October, after the government published a white paper on the subject, “ civil liberties minister Helena Dalli said.

MP and Building Industry Consultative Council (BICC) executive chairman Charles Buhagiar said that the skills card was necessary to give more recognition and awareness about skills necessary to workers in the sector, and to credit the skills on an international level.

He added that the card was developed also as a means to encourage more people to consider a career in the industry.

“We want to get the message across that there is a clear career path in the sector,” he said, adding that the skills card would also help workers prove what their skills and experience are.

He added that acquiring the skill card in itself would also present a health and safety course for all the trades involved, in response to the fact that accidents on construction sites had sadly increased over time.

In her presentation about the card, Nadette Azzopardi explained that cards would be made available for various levels including a red card for trainees, and different cards according to the level of education of employees.

She added that although the OHSA would be providing the eight hour health and safety awareness courses for employees, employers still had a responsibility to offer specific training if required.

Buhagiar also pointed out that those requiring the skills card would have to present a certificate of competence issue by an educational facility, as well as the attendance certificate to the OHSA course.

“Those who do not have a certificate of education, can apply for a trade test with ETC,” he said, adding that the scheme was not meant to deter foreign workers, who currently make up the bulk of employees in the sector, but to ensure that everyone in the sector had the necessary skills and training, rather than the sector being treated as something of a fall back career.

“Foreign employees with a skill card from their country will have to verify the validity of their own cards compared to local standards, and foreigners seeking a job in the sector, without their own card will also have the option to apply for the local skills card.”

He added that people who are awarded a skills card would be listed on a register online, further giving those requiring some work done peace of mind of the qualifications of the people working for them.

The project is the first of its kind with entities including the BICC, NCHFE, MCAST, OHSA, ETC and BRO among others, participating in its setup.

Education minister Evarist Bartolo said that the positive effects of this initiative could have ripple effects on other industries.

“Locally we have a skills deficit in various sectors including the construction sector,” he said, adding that it also suffered from prejudices that ought to be tackled.

Bartolo said that any job can be professional and ought to be treated as such, and that the recognition of the skills necessary for the industry, would ultimately make this culture shift possible.

“A vocation can be a professional career,” he said, adding that the initiative had also encouraged other sectors to make leaps towards better human resources and training.

Dalli pointed out that discipline had remained something if an issue locally, leading to sometimes tragic consequences, but that the card would ultimately make enforcement more possible and feasible.