Outpacing Demand for Skilled Labour
The construction industry’s requirement of skilled labourers exceeds the trained construction workforce available currently. Sharanya Nair finds out how the real estate sectoris trying to bridge the gap between training and employability.
India’s economy is expected to grow at 7.9% by 2019-20. One of the primary sectorsthat has contributed to the country’sis the construction sector.The government’s investment in infrastructure projects and affordable housing segment is a positive sign for the country but these initiatives are greatly marred by the persistent labour shortages.The construction including both new construction and remodelling jobs and operatingof heavy and complex machinery, require training, education, and skills.
In a recent skill gap analysis by the government, during the next two decades, more than 12 million youthsup to 29 years of age are expected to enter India’s labour force every yearbut unfortunately, only a handful of them will have proper education or skill. It is estimated that about 109 million or so additional skilled workers will be needed by the year 2022.
According to the survey by Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC), projects get delayed due to unavailability of skilled workers eventually escalating costs for the construction process.The job positionsfor construction labourers, equipment operators,elevator installers,masonry workers,painter, welder, electrician and many more need proper skilling and training to make a healthy contribution to the sector.
The need for skilled construction workers will become even more urgent, as the increasing construction technology mechanisation is expected to reduce therequirement of unskilled workers and increase the demand for trained individuals on construction sites.
Labour Sourcing & Employment
The construction companies’sub-contract work to small contractors, that engage middlemento fetch labourers for construction sites from villages. Most of these workersare seasonal farmers, available during non-farming months to work on the construction sites and generally have no prior experience or formal training of construction work.Another disturbing trend is that these workers are assigned no particular job work and are randomly given works like plastering, cement grinding or brick-laying as the need arises.Most of these unskilled laborers pick upskills on the job, informally from peers or supervisors, resulting in inefficientperformance and productivity.The wage gap between skilled and semi-skilled workers is as much as 73 per cent and widens with specialization.
Reasons of Skill Shortage
The Indian construction industry employs almost 42 million people, with 85% being small workers like the masons, carpenters and the other percentage accounting for the managers, supervisors and the engineers. Cities such as New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Kolkata are the most affected as compared to other small and upcoming cities.Some of the reasons for the shortage of skilled workforce in the sector include;
• No formal education on the sector trades.
• Even the Government run vocational training centers don’t focus too much on construction trade.
• Very poor signalling value of the industry and entry level jobs. Most 1st time job seekers now look for desk jobs as against manual work
• Most of the laborers are daily wageworkers and get paid through contractors / middle men thereby creating a disparity in wages. This makes the sector unattractive for trained workers.
• Many skilled laborersopt to work abroad mostly in Gulf countries for better prospects both in incomeand standard of living
The poor public image of the construction industry, theambiguity of functions in construction coupled with the perception that construction firms are a poor paymasters as well as lowly professional status are the major factors for the reluctance of youths joining the sector. The construction sector’s need to add 10 to 12 per cent to the workforce every year for the next five years makes the situation even more difficult.
Training Gaps & Resolutions
It is observed that in India that most secondary school students enrol in computer related courses, probably because of the prestige and higher wages associated with these jobs. Further, the state level policies continue to emphasize ontechnology-oriented sectors and a complete absence of specific initiatives for theconstruction sector. Despite a national need for skilled constructionworkers, the state governments are indifferent to the trainingneeds of the workforce engaged in the sector.
In India, the minimum education requirement for vocational training creates anentry barrier for most casual workers in the construction sector. The education and vocational training policies should be coordinated such as introducing vocational subjects into seniorsecondary schools. Students can opt for either academic or vocational education.Formal training schools at the secondary school level that offer on-site training will help bring in a large proportion of its workforce with an educationlinkedvocational training system.
Secondly, the long duration of courses from one to three years (forcarpentry, plumbing) in ITIs is not suited to the specific needs of migrant seasonal construction workers who engage in constructionactivities under a contractor for short durations lasting a few months.
Clearly, the migrant population in India (almost 20 million) hasminimal avenues of training via ITIs in its current model at the national level.Institutionalised informal training for themigrant workforce wherein, skilled building craftsmen pass on their skills to the young students and also offer their services to urban construction companies can be one of the solutions. States with lower literacy rates may reap fruitful results by institutionalizing informal training than making continued investments in craftsmen and apprenticeship training schemes.
Companies should come forward and do their bit as government initiatives are just not enough to create significant impact. Companies shape industry demands, set trends and have a greater understanding of what is needed in various sectors, thus the companies can get the pulse and train according to the skills required by the labour sector of India. By creating a pool of skilled workers, the company’s assets double up as well.
The industry will consciously have to work towards creating the right signalling value for the job roles by paying the right amount of wages and giving the workers decent living options . Only then will they be able to attract the right talent.
Addressing the Challenge
The National Skill Development Corporation’s (NSDC) report on Human Resource and Skill Requirement shows the workforce in the construction and real estate sector will touch approximately 76 million by 2022. Of these, 97 per cent of workers between the age of 15 and 65 are likely to have no training before they start working.
Private Training Centers:Most of the large construction companies do realize the importance of trained manpower and hence they themselves have made investments in training centers on their sites. Many companies have in-house construction academies to develop and up-skill manpower for their requirements. Some of the companies which conduct training programmes for their manpower are Hiranandani Group, Rustomjee, ShapoorjiPallonji, Scheneider Electric, Sterling Wilson, Pidilite, to name a few.
The labourers are given training like formwork carpentry, bar bending and steel fixing, masonry (brick work & block work), plumbing and sanitary, electrical, scaffolding, general assistants, welding (pipe welding) & (structural welding), tiling, concrete laboratory and field testing, pre-stressing, transmission line tower erectionand many more.
With introduction of newer technological equipment and machinery, unless and until the manpower is trained on their usage, the companies will not be able to deploy them. However, awareness needs to be developed across board and not just a handful of large construction companies in India.
CSR Activity: The real estate and construction companies also opt for skilling and training of the employees as a CSR activity thus concentrating those 2% of the profits on their own labour. Companies also sponsor or fund NGOs which work for skilling and training of the labourers. Real estate companies are working in collaboration with training companies to establish training infrastructure in places where this manpower comes from to skill & certify them,make them aware of the opportunities and also help them migrate.
Tata Housing has been providing people with employability skill development training and entrepreneurship development training in partnership with various non-government organizations, government institutions and professional bodies. L&T has set up and runs eight Construction Skills Training Institutes (CSTIs) across the country. These Institutes provide formal, free vocational training in construction skills for the largely unorganised workforce in this sector. L&T has collaborated with 27 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) across the country to impart industry-oriented training.
Industry Bodies:Various real estate bodies are conducting programmes for skill development and training to reach out to the urban as well as rural labourers and train them in their preferred field. The Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) forayed in the arena of Skilling with its training program ‘’Kushal’’ in 2011 Since then, CREDAI is conducting regular on-site training programs for construction workers at construction sites through its member developers spread across 24 states and 156 city chapters.
Construction Skill Development Council of India is promoted by Construction Federation of India (CFI), Builders’ Association of India (BAI), National Highways Builders Federation (NHBF) and Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI).It is building the capacity by training providers, Trainers and conductingquality training as well as certifying the trained manpower.
Government Initiatives:There are numerous initiatives like DeenDayalUpadhyayaGrameenKaushalyaYojana, PradhanMantriKaushal Vikas Yojana (Skill India), Craftsmen Training Scheme, Skill development for minorities and many more. These initiatives have been launched to empower the youth of the country with skill sets which make them more employable and more productive in their work environment. Many Government programs such as the NSDC run PMKVY is encouraging their training partners to provide training in this sector.
TeamLease imparts training through skill centres across India on specific job roles to improve work skills. Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services gives an assessment of skilling needs in Indian construction sector.
Availability of skilled labours in construction industry has been a challenge and increasingly so as the industry is volatile in many ways. Workers usually migrate from states of UP, Bihar & West Bengal. Many of them are seasonal farmers, so the non-farming months are when they are “available” to work in the construction industry. Besides, many skilled Indian labours prefer to work in other countries such as Dubai, Singapore, Saudi Arabia etc and most recently the African continent. Despite the rapid growth of the industry, it continues to be devoid of skills manpower.
Companies should look at “Preparing” manpower for their needs ahead of time, i.e. work in collaboration with training companies to establish training infrastructure in places where this manpower comes from, skill & certify them, make them aware of the opportunities and also help them migrate.
But it is observed that the rural sector is unable to reach and receive information on the skilling programs by private and government bodies because of the lack of reach and communication. This can only improve if the proper channel of dissemination of information is used by the government to reach to the grassroots’ level of execution.
With 100% FDI being allowed within the sector, many global construction companies will start setting up base in India. The awareness needs to be developed across board and not just a handful of large construction companies in India. We have been training construction workers by actively collaborating with industry majors and training / up skilling the workers in areas such as Barbending, Shuttering & Masonry, and Health & Safety etc.
The trainings at sites give trainees first-hand experience of the work. The trainers take live sessions which focus on knowing their skill gaps and train them on the same through various methods which involved both oral, visual& conceptual.
We need to create degree programs for job roles within this sector. No degree, no education means low signaling value. Secondly training needs to be hands-on coupled with few classroom / trainer sessions at the site. The ITI equipmentneeds to be upgraded, to bring in the change in technology actually being used at the sites. Continuous Improvement in the training content & close supervision of training output including adaptability to the new training methods may help in address future challenges well.
Globally, workers joining this sector need to be as skilled if not more as maybe an IT sector. Certifications, bench marking, continuous up skilling & reskilling are a norm globally and not to mention the signaling value of the jobs as well as the wages. We need to put these in practise , and only then will this sector become more organized and skilled