Wawasan Open University (WOU) has been actively keeping its students updated of pertinent skills and jobs through various online talks held during the Covid-19 pandemic period. Examples are the following topics which represent two very important employment sectors in the current situation and for the future.
Knowing Future Trends in the Construction Industry
Participants learned about the challenges and future trends in the construction industry from an experienced project management professional.
Dr Amin Akhavan Tabassi, Senior Lecturer of Project Management, Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), United Kingdom, was speaking at the online talk titled “Career Advancement in the Construction Industry: National and Global Perspectives”. The event organised by the School of Science & Technology and the Penang Regional Centre on 23 January 2021, was attended by about 40 people.
He said the global construction industry is predicted to grow by over 70% by 2025, and has benefited from the increasing urban-rural migration that created a demand for affordable housing.
He elaborated that the industry will witness a future trend of refurbishing old buildings, since70% to 90% of all buildings that needed to be provided in the next 10 or 20 years already exist. “In the UK, over 80% of the 2025 building stock has already been built. In Australia, over 80% of the 2020 office building stock has been built, with the average age of Australia’s office stock exceeding 27 years. We have a similar scenario in Hong Kong, with existing buildings 10 to 40 years old.”
He continued, “In Kuala Lumpur, the existing stock of office buildings are 85% of that required.” He said the industry faces the challenge to turn the existing stock of buildings into sustainable, energy-efficient buildings and to strengthen and refit the many aged infrastructure projects.
Dr Amin listed four key areas that will impact the construction industry: market and customers; sustainability and resilience; society and workforce; and politics and regulations.
He mentioned the high market demand for residential and new infrastructure projects in developing countries. He added that projects in the future would be bigger and more complex, e.g.the undersea tunnel project in China or to address ageing infrastructure (1 in 3 German railway bridges are over 100 years old).
Regarding sustainability and resilience, he highlighted the scarcity of raw materials, solid waste production, resilience of buildings against disasters, and gas emissions all of which can lead to global warming, resource depletion, ozone depletion, reduction of biodiversity, waste production, and water, air and land pollution.
Speaking on society and workforce, he said the industry must deal with urbanisation and housing crisis, talent and ageing workforce, community opposition to projects, and politicisation of construction decisions. Among the challenges from politics and regulations are complex regulatory requirements, slow permit and approval process, and corruption.
Dr Amin called for industry transformation in line with IR 4.0 and the adoption of best practices, such as semi-automated construction equipment; new construction technologies e.g. 3D printing; digital technologies and big data; innovative construction models; enhanced management of sub-contractors and suppliers; rigorous project monitoring; sustainable products; continuous training and knowledge management; and coordinated communication with civil society.
He felt that the industry is lagging in the use of technology to facilitate operations and the management of project activities. He urged those interested in a career in construction to help make the industry more innovative, taking advantage of big data, internet of things, robots and so forth.
Ir Mohd Firdaus Mohamad Idris, Head of Heavy Maintenance Unit, Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, meanwhile talked about pursuing tertiary qualifications for career advancement.
At WOU, students can pursue the Bachelor of Technology (Honours) in Construction Management (BTCM) and the MBA in Construction Management (MBA-CM) programmes via open distance learning.
Creativity Needed for Logistics, Supply Chain Firms, to Rise above Disruption
Among the industries that particularly need innovations to ensure continued smooth operations is the logistics and supply chain industry. The pandemic has disrupted the movement of goods in the global supply chain due to issues like lockdowns, restrictions, shutdown of businesses, closed borders and quarantines.
WOU’s School of Business & Administration (SBA) lecturer Dr Kan Wen Huey urged logistics companies to think creatively and build their business models to improve efficiency.
Speaking at an online talk on “Impact of Covid-19 on the Logistics and Supply Chain Industry and Malaysia’s Response” organised by WOU’s Penang Regional Centre in collaboration with the School on 12 December 2020, she highlighted the major tribulations faced by the industry.
These include the rise in e-commerce, new factory environments forced by social distancing, and restrictions on movements of goods due to increased border controls. She said these factors lead to longer waiting times for overseas parcels and delayed delivery. Dr Kan expects this scenario to continue into 2021, with a continued increase in freight rates because of restrictions on the global movement of goods.
The future for logistics, she stressed, is in digital transformation with IR 4.0, supply chain diversification and onshoring of production.
She offered a few ideas on actions logistics companies can take, like using integrated logistics control towers for real-time monitoring of freight; knowing their inventory and capability so as to balance supply and demand; effective proactive communication with on-site and remote workers, suppliers, carriers and customers; and providing physical and mental support to the logistics workforce.
Dr Kan is the Programme lead for the Bachelor of Business (Honours) in Logistics and Supply Chain Management (BBLC) programme that is offered via open distance learning and on-campus learning at WOU.