The Pandemic Comeback Story

From Simon Tully, President of CAOB 

The Construction Association of Bermuda (CAOB) are just coming into their own again after an extremely challenging two years. We sat down with the President of CAOB, Simon Tully, for an interesting catch up on where they are today post pandemic. Simon updates us on current challenges in the construction in Bermuda, how their members have adapted to industry changes and how the CAOB are leading the charge for industry training courses – specifically safety training.

Q – As the Voice of Construction in Bermuda, please describe how you have best supported your members post pandemic.

A – We are just coming into our own again after an extremely challenging two years, with our CAOB scholarship annual golf tournament coming up in October after a two year hiatus. We have had a tremendous response from our membership which will allow us to resume giving grants to Bermudians who are pursuing a career in construction disciplines in University. We have also finally updated our charitable status so that we can continue to accept valuable donations in that vein.

Q – What are the main struggles that you have seen in recent years?

A – The main struggles in recent years are common issues that transcend the construction industry – finding qualified personnel and the cost of doing business. With advances in technology there are fewer and fewer young people inclined to work outdoors, with their hands, and in the trades in general. It seems that there are ‘easier’ opportunities that are presenting themselves where potential candidates work behind a desk or anything but working with their hands. More emphasis must be made on the benefits of learning a trade and the careers they lead to. With the cost of doing business, margins are becoming less and less as costs increase and pressure is on General Contractors to try not to price themselves out of jobs. Homeowners are also much more savvy than 20 years ago so they are importing many of their own supplies leaving the GC to try to make a profit on fewer and fewer items.

Q – Have you noticed a success trend in members who have been forced to adapt to recent global changes?

A – Members who have been successful in recent years are customer focused, keep their costs contained, and concentrate on doing great work. These three attributes combine to give member companies more opportunities to continue to get work as their reputation is first class.

Q – With supply chain changes, can you describe how your members are adapting?

A – We adapt!! Rolling with the punches of delays in kitchen supplies and windows is a prime example of construction management whereby planning ahead is key to keeping projects on time and on budget. The curveball comes into play with change orders and unexpected items, but usually with multiple projects on the go there are ways to utilize materials from other jobs to continue on.

Q – Post pandemic, have you seen an increase or decrease in job creation within the construction industry?

A – ‘Job creation’ can be interpreted in two ways – as in employment, or, as in project creation. We are continuing to see fewer and fewer individuals entering the trades, making us reliant on foreign workers, and at the same time, we are going through a construction boom. Bermuda is seen as a safe investment property wise and with several sites opening up (think Riddles Bay) there are increased opportunities for contractual works. Renovations and upgrades are also plentiful and contractors are turning away jobs, or delaying start dates for a year in some cases due to volume.

Q – Can you tell us about your safety training and safety efforts currently available to both members and non–members?

A – The CAOB are the local representative for NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) training courses, and safety training is by far the most subscribed to. Many local sites require a minimal safety course orientation just to step foot on them so we are able to facilitate internationally recognized safety courses that can then be verified online. Many safety courses rely solely on a piece of paper that needs to be produced, or an online course that cannot be independently verified. With NCCER, the verification is registered online and can be upgraded or added to at any time. We have local instructors that can conduct any type of safety course NCCER has to offer, including things such as working in confined spaces, working at heights, and general site safety.

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