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The construction and property industry, similar to other economic sectors, was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many companies have gradually resumed full operations and started thawing their hiring freezes as soon as the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) went into effect on 10 June 2020. According to a report by The Star, companies have indicated that operating levels have recovered between 60% and 100%, as compared to 20% to 40% during the Movement Control Order (MCO) and Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).
The revival of big-ticket infrastructure projects is critical to Malaysia’s domestic consumption and overall economic health. There is an excitement and high anticipation of the potential roll-out of mega infrastructure projects, such as the MRT3, Pan Borneo Sabah, Sabah Sarawak Link Road and potentially, the High Speed Rail. These projects will drive more business within the sector as well as create jobs, which is essential to help reduce the unemployment rate and buffer economic shocks.
This would be a good opportunity to examine what type of jobs are available in Malaysia’s construction and property industry now, and the kind of talent and skills employers will be looking to hire in the next six to 12 months.
growth in the wilayah persekutuan and selangor area
As the COVID-19 situation improves, infrastructure projects have received the green light to resume full operations after having to halt their activities between March and May due to MCO.
There is now a window of opportunity for the sector to catch up on the delayed city planning and infrastructure processes to meet deadlines. With adequate workplace safety measures, the construction and property sector should be able to resume full operations quickly.
In fact, we’ve observed that construction activities have resumed in Wilayah Persekutuan and Selangor, due to the increasing pressure to develop these areas urgently.
Following the macro-economic projections, the population in these townships are expected to grow from the current 8 million to 10 million by the end of 2031. New business investments and job opportunities in Kuala Lumpur are attracting more and more residents to move closer to the nation’s capital. These townships provide residents with more affordable housing, which would relieve some pressures of the high living cost within the city.
With housing in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor going for prices between MYR500,000 and MYR800,000, the government has also been putting pressure on developers to build more affordable housing for residents with a modest budget.
Selangor in particular has become a popular area for Malaysians as people prefer to live in a township that is less than 100 kilometres away from Kuala Lumpur. Selangor has also seen rapid development in recent years, with the construction of highly-connected infrastructure and amenities like malls and hospitals.
lower number of foreign investments in the property market
Luxury housing developments in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) and Selangor are popular among foreign property buyers. According to the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents, foreign ownership of property is about 5% to 7% in the KLCC vicinity and 3% in Selangor.
However, whether this trend of high foreign ownership and investments will continue is in question due to tighter border control measures and the temporary suspension of the Malaysia My Second Home programme. This pandemic (which has yet to subside across the world) has resulted in more people choosing to stay in their home country for a longer period and practice more caution in their foreign investments. Until international travel fully resumes and depending on when the economy recovers, the foreign buyers market may remain relatively muted in Malaysia.
changing consumer attitudes and behaviours due to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has made people rethink how they live, work and play, including how to spend their money and time. As a result, buyers are more likely to invest in smaller property developments to decrease their spending and accommodate their new lifestyle habits.
On the residential front, buyers look for housing developments that enable them to move from one place to another easily and are well-connected to an efficient public transportation network. For example, younger consumers may prefer to live near a train station or move to a smaller apartment rather than splurge on a car or landed property. Millennials are also more likely to rent a place as they will have less financial risks in doing so. They also have a tendency to chase after the new best thing and as such, would aim to move to a better condominium after a couple of years.
On the commercial side, companies are looking to move to smaller spaces as they continue to embrace remote working and flexible work arrangements in the longer term. According to the Randstad 2020 Employer Brand Research in Malaysia, ‘work-life balance’ is the second most important employer value proposition that job seekers look for in an ideal employer. Companies that offer remote working policies will be able to attract the best talent from the market.
Some organisations are also downsizing their workforce or are in the process of restructuring to build a more integrated workforce, and may consider moving from a luxurious office with a prominent postal code to co-working spaces, or away from the central business district.
accelerating digital transformation within construction & property
With mandatory physical distancing requirements, many developers have switched over to using digital technology to market their properties, especially to facilitate property viewings.
Using 360-degree virtual reality cameras, the developers are able to create an immersive digital experience for their customers. Clients can view the showroom from the comfort of their own homes, no matter where they are located in the world.
However, investing in property is a huge financial decision. Therefore, many developers have set up online booking platforms for interested buyers to reserve a viewing slot. This would allow developers to plan the number of visitors a day and make sure that the space is properly disinfected in between each viewing.
There is also a possibility that developers will rent open spaces in shopping malls to build physical showrooms, as many buyers still want to see the space in real-life before taking the plunge.
digital transforms the workplace
Technology will play a big part in deciding what jobs and skills are needed for the construction and property industry during the pandemic and in the future. In fact, we have discovered that many jobs can be done online and from home during this pandemic.
For instance, the tender management process which traditionally requires paperwork and physical meetings has been converted into a full digital process during this period. Companies can save on costs needed to set up and execute physical events to draw tenders, and vendors are also able to submit their tenders more quickly and efficiently. Success stories like these will attract more attention from the industry to digitalise, further accelerating the digital transformation.
Companies have either shifted or are moving from traditional legacy networks to the cloud infrastructure to enable agile and remote working. As more and more conversations and transactions take place over digital channels, the demand for talent skilled in using data to analyse markets and predict buyer behaviours will increase exponentially. These professionals will be required to use data to develop targeted marketing campaigns and customised property packages to increase the customer conversion rate.
in-demand jobs and skills in construction & property sectors
In a client-led employment market, employers have higher expectations from job seekers and would shortlist candidates who stand out from the crowd. Candidates seeking work in the construction and property industry need to have the right mix of technical and soft skills.
Common technical skills include Building Information Modelling, IBS, Quality Assessment System in Construction (QLASSIC) and the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS). Job seekers must also demonstrate their soft skills during the job interview process by referring to past examples of how they have effectively managed their stakeholders or delivered a project despite having odds piled up against them. Those who are able to communicate fluently and present themselves well during the interview will also stand a higher chance of securing the job.
projects managers in high demand
Due to the MCO, many construction projects have been delayed by many months. With the restrictions lifting, companies are now under pressure to complete these projects on time.
To meet these deadlines, there is increasingly high demand for end-to-end project management professionals in both the construction and property industries. A good project manager can help their employer reduce cost and time spent while increasing overall productivity.
This is extremely critical during a recession because disruptions to the supply chain have led to rising costs in raw materials, making it difficult to build projects on budget. A skilled project manager can also help ensure strict quality control so no additional fixes would be needed after the project is delivered.
Project managers will need to be familiar with the Industrialised Building System (IBS), where construction components are manufactured in a controlled environment and then placed or assembled into construction works. Project managers who have effectively used modular IBS to cut down construction time and improve the quality of the product are highly sought-after by companies.
job opportunities for sales and marketing talent
In April 2020, the National Property Information Centre announced that the number of completed and unsold properties climbed to 57,000 units, which is valued at RM41.5 billion as of end-2019. These residential units were mainly landed and high-rise units, making up 45% or RM18.82 billion of the total unsold properties. The longer these units remain unsold, the more costs the property developers will have to incur as part of the maintenance.
Companies are hence under pressure to sell these units, and to do so, they need to hire people who can hit the ground running. Sales and marketing professionals who have prior industry experience and can think outside the box are highly sought-after by these companies.
for all job seekers, job security is top-of-mind
Professionals in the construction and property industry tend to move from project to project, and each time they switch an employer, they would negotiate for a higher salary. Now, with the precarious economic situation, many candidates would prefer a secure permanent role. Some job seekers are even willing to take a pay cut of 10% to 30% to work for a company that is financially stable with a healthy project pipeline.
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