‘Up­skilling con­struc­tion work­ers can re­vive the sec­tor and at­tract tal­ent’

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - Front Page - Prakasan TP ht­spe­cial­pro­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com ■ The author is chief op­er­at­ing officer of MEP Busi­ness at Ster­ling and Wil­son

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.

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