‘Upskilling construction workers can revive the sector and attract talent’
The Indian construction industry needs to step up efforts to train and upskill its workforce to unlock the growth opportunities of the sector and contribute optimally to the nation’s development. The Indian construction industry employs around 51 million people – the second-largest employer – and contributes around 9% to the country’s GDP. Additionally, it creates more than 45 million jobs either directly or indirectly.
By 2022, the Indian construction space is predicted to become the largest employer and set to employ Rs 76 million people from the current levels of over 60 million. This means an additional 16 million jobs in the coming years. However, construction companies, irrespective of the geographies they operate, will need to rely more on the next generation of workers.
THE IMPERATIVES FOR CHANGE
The construction industry is handicapped by intractable problems that have led to the sector’s remarkably poor productivity relative to other sectors.
The mom-and-pop stores have been replaced by large-scale modern retailers; lean principles and aggressive automation have revamped the manufacturing landscape. The construction sector, however, has been evolving
a glacial pace.
The global labour-productivity growth in construction has averaged only 1% annually over the past two decades as against 2.8% and 3.6% per year growth of the world economy and manufacturing.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s Construction Productivity Survey and Report, 2017, a host of reasons, varying from the high amount of regulation, dependence on public-sector demand, and fragmented and cyclical nature of the industry, has been attributed to the severe underperformance of the sector.
In India, the percentage of service-cost to the overall projectcost is as low as 12-15%, whereas the global standard is higher than 40%. Tough competition and lack of recognition for quality work compound the problems faced by Indian companies. It is loud and clear; the construction sector is unmistakably underperforming.
Bridging these gaps will certainly improve the attractiveness of this segment and a lot of talents will choose to work in it.
Like much of the world around us, the construction sector is also transforming. Rising workplace expectations and constant changes brought about by technology upgrades have increased the demand for a skilled workforce that excels in their trade and understands and appreciates safety regulations to work at optimum efficacy. Counat tries like India must concentrate on multi-skilling their people, improve the working environment at project sites to attract talents to the segment.
BEING FUTURE READY
Due to the lack of an institutional mechanism for skill formation, construction workers in India continue to be trained by the traditional master craftsmen.
The traditional system neither utilises new technologies or work methods nor does it emphasise on safety and sustainability which will assume increasingly greater significance in the coming years.
The next generation of workers will require consistent and continual upskilling and not just training to drive real, sustainable value to the entire ecosystem.
The Construction Skills Fund (CSF), set up by the Government of the UK in 2018, is a remarkable example of how governments across the world can contribute to training future construction workers.
The £22 million CSF, funded by the Department for Education and delivered by the Construction Industry Training Board, aims to provide training to individuals looking to get into the construction industry, to fill the skills gap and make more people ‘site ready’. It endeavours to provide training, to both unemployed and those planning to change their career, to enter the construction sector.
In India too, several initiatives such as the Construction Industry Development Council set up jointly by the Government of India and the construction industry, and the National Institute of Construction Management and Research, are working to improve the productivity of construction workers.
The construction industry too has stepped up its efforts to increase the sustainability of the sector.
Increased awareness about safety and quality has led to consistent and continual efforts to develop the skill of the workforce. With technology and automation becoming increasingly pervasive at work, training and development of the workforce have led to sustained efforts by the construction industry. However, much more needs to be done if the sector must capitalise on the growth opportunities of the future.
The government must incentivise private players to provide training to the construction workers.
At the same time, the industry must collaborate to use scarce capital resources for skill training on a massive scale. The writing is on the wall; proper schemes designed to skill, re-skill, and upskill the construction workers are required to reduce the skill gap faced by the industry.