The Indian construction sector is the second highest contributor to the GDP after agriculture, yet, faces the challenge of a colossal skill gap. The formally skilled workforce in the country is only about 4 per cent, which is abysmal. Developers need to partner with the Government and also proactively initiate training and development for construction workers to bridge this enormous skill gap. For its part, the Government has initiated the India Skills Mission and, in 2013, established the Construction Skill Development Council of India (CSDC) that works with the industry and training partners. It encourages associations and developer members to partake in the initiative to achieve skilling numbers for the sector.
Skill development is a need
Contrary to popular perception, skill development in the industry is not an additional feature or mere CSR, it is a pressing need. In the absence of adequate skilled workers, it will be a challenge for crucial government initiatives such as ‘Housing for All by 2022’ to be accomplished.
Some key factors to emphasise on the need for skill development are:
Shortage of human resource: Although the construction sector employs about 33 million people at present, steadfast economic growth and ambitious infrastructure projects coupled with the Government’s vision for the housing segment will require 4 million additional people per year over the next five years.
Technology and mechanisation: Technology is fast overtaking all tasks in construction and is expected to further increase in India. With the advent of modular structures and prefabricated and precast parts, mechanisation has become an integral part of the industry. With this increase in technology and mechanisation, the proportion of unskilled labour is expected to reduce (though absolute numbers will rise owing to increased projects).
Consumer centricity leading to increase in facilities: Consumers are at the heart of residential projects and are increasingly expecting additional services to be provided at an added cost. Security, plumbing, gas pipe and electrical services will create the need for additional personnel equipped with required skills.
Improving the lives of construction workers: Skill development and training increase the wages of construction workers, to about 100 per cent in many cases. This enables them to achieve a better lifestyle and greater employment opportunities. Through CREDAI’s skilling initiatives, we’ve been fortunate enough to bring about this change in their lives and view the resultant shift in perspective first hand. Moreover, CREDAI also encourages participation in the National and World Skills Competitions for trained workers; many have excelled at these platforms, boosting their opportunities.
Ways to bridge the skill gap
The fraternity needs to unite to see a tangible difference in the volume of skilled labour and, by extension, quality long-lasting structures.
Onus of developers: Developers need to take greater onus of skilling construction workers as it builds a platform for finesse in construction and long-lasting structures. Moreover, developers can effect a change in mindset by helping workers imbibe the fact that training is important.
Effective use of the government cess: Of the construction cess collected for the welfare of construction workers, only 10-15 per cent is utilised. There is a huge opportunity to utilise these funds and impact construction workers’ lives for the better.
Utilise existing platforms: The Government aims to make India the skill capital of the world and various ministries are undertaking initiatives to this end. Many programmes have been conceptualised, executed and monitored by various organisations, working closely with the Government, such as CREDAI, CII, FICCI, etc. Further, initiatives and committees like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), National Rural Livelihood Mission – Ajeevika Skills, National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) and the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) are overseen by the ministries of Labour Welfare and Skill Development.
Indeed, it is a collective struggle to bridge the skill gap in our sector and all industry stakeholders must come together to address the necessary concerns. It should no longer be a choice but a sustainable duty and responsibility to train our workers.
About the author:
Vishal Gupta is Chairman-Labour, Laws and Skill Development, CREDAI National, and Managing Director, Ashiana Housing. At CREDAI, he has spearheaded skill development initiatives and been instrumental in the training of 1 lakh workers under CREDAI’s skilling programme.