BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
SOLOMON Islanders may notice the increasing number of construction projects these days and the timeline to complete the construction or renovation of such projects is sometimes overdue in the country.
The primary reason is the growing demand for qualified skilled labor in the trades sector in the country are not coping, the providers are finding it harder to place graduates from their course skills programs into employment, according to Solomon Islands National University (SINU) Acting Vice Chancellor Dr. Jack Maebuta.
Dr. Jack Maebuta said a recent study carried out by a Skills Consulting Group in the Solomon Islands early this year had indicated a growing demand for skilled trade workers.
He said the study revealed that there are undersupplied trade skills identified by stakeholders in the Solomon Islands.
“These include a general shortage of skills in all trades. Skills gaps are notable in areas where standards are enforced such as carpentry, plumbing, civil construction; finishers; plumbers; welders; architects.
“It also includes Lower level rural and community maintenance skills such as those required for footpaths and small bridges; Environmental assessment, preparing specifications, and materials testing; Geo-technical skills; Quality assurance of construction works and; Technical skills for civil works,’’ Maebuta revealed the report findings on 11 November 2022 at the SINU Open Day event at FOPA village in East Honiara.
He added that the Labour market study similarly identifies that the most needed skills over the next 5 years include: skilled tradespersons including project managers, engineers, electricians, builders, mechanics, and plumbers.
“In this regard, SINU is trying its level best to meet these demands. Hence, for instance, SINU has started the Diploma in Civil Engineering.
“The study also revealed that oversupplied construction skills in the Solomon Islands identified by stakeholders include: carpenters, too many trainees seen by stakeholders, and too many graduates particularly electrical with insufficient skills have resulted in engineers struggling to find work,’’ Dr. Maebuta said.
However, he pointed out that this may be due to a lack of connection between supply and demand.
He said the key barriers to the development of successful industry training in the Solomon Islands are the limited regulation and standards, quality assurance, coordination, and capacity.
“The inconsistent standards through the skills development system will need to be addressed to establish a successful industry training system.
“Currently, stakeholders state that the building code in the Solomon Islands is ineffective and out of date. As one Solomon Islands Employer puts it – ‘A good regulation, and better experience, would change the whole trades industry.
“Some industries are always searching for new talents to join a very wide range of opportunities within its workforce, skills sets range from Mechanics to Accounts Management,” Dr. Jack Maebuta.
Meanwhile, he said that the decision to go to university is a big step for students, and finding the most suitable course and place to study can be an overwhelming task.
“We recognize that parents, guardians, carers, and relatives can all play a vital role in choosing and applying for university to support families during this process, whether you have some or no experience of higher education SINU has gathered the key information that is needed to help guide a young person through the application journey.
“Today, universities around the world are challenged more than ever before for several reasons, including the need to serve multiple interests, the need for self-sufficiency, affordability, and the shift of government policy on Higher Education, amongst others.
“SINU is no exception,’’ Dr. Maebuta said.
On a similar note, he said that SINU as a national premier tertiary institution continues to remain committed to creating Higher Education opportunities that are relevant to the current and future needs of our communities and the country.
Dr. Maebuta said SINU adopted and launched its five-year Strategic Plan 2021-2025 in June 2021 which provides a strategic direction for the development of SINU through the period of 5 years and beyond.
“The Strategic Plan sets out a Mission “Championing the pursuit of advanced knowledge and skills, through skills development, academic inquiry and research, to transform lives through higher education and training, and to become a dual-sector University of acceptable quality and standards in its program offerings.
“In this context of SINU becoming a dual-sector University, I am being challenged to address the needs and demands of the trade industry in Solomon Islands,’’ Dr. Maebuta said.