TUESDAY, DEC. 7: Tradesmen are being urged to update their skills and qualifications during the “slowdown” in the construction industry.

Trade and Industry Minister Kim Wilson said the “shrinkage” in the industry was likely to continue in the short-term before a major upswing when new projects like the hospital and the national swimming centre get underway.

In a joint press conference with the Construction Association and the National Training Board today, she urged Bermudians to take advantage of the courses on offer on the island to ensure they were in a position to get work when the new projects started.

She said: “New construction is reliant upon the use of new technologies. Like any other industry, tradesmen must continuously upgrade their skills and certifications.

“Over the past decade, however, there has been such an abundance of work that tradesmen have not had the luxury of time to apply to the process of continuous learning.

“Some believe that as a result, local tradesmen are falling behind other jurisdictions with respect to attaining trade certifications and learning new skills.

“So, in an effort to reduce our reliance on foreign expertise in this area of industry, we are here today to appeal to those construction industry professionals to take full advantage of the slow period to upgrade their skills, become certified in their field and dedicate themselves to a path of continuous learning.”

Charles Dunstan, vice president of the Construction Association, said opportunities were available locally – through courses at Bermuda College as well as the two high schools.

He added: “The most heavily subscribed construction category for work permits is masonry, one of the core trades, with training available locally both on and off the job. And yet, at one point recently, there were only four people enrolled in the masonry programme at Bermuda College.

“This points to a breakdown in communicating the opportunities that are available.”

Courses are sponsored through the National Training Board and are free.

More information is available on the Construction Association’s website at www.constructionbermuda.com.