India is one of the most significant contributors to the blue-collar construction jobs of the gulf region. Despite this, the lack of skilled workforce back home is both a cause of concern and an opportunity to grow.

The recent boost in the skilling industry of India has brought forth the sectors where an enormous skill gap persists. Be it engineering, hotel management, manufacturing or construction industry; skilled workforce is the need of the hour. Despite being the second largest industry after agriculture, shortage of standardised courses and skilling options keeps India from reaping the benefits of its demographic dividend.

Severe skills shortage

On the path to becoming an economic superpower, India lags behind its global counterparts in terms of the skilled workforce. India’s skilled workforce is nearly four percent (Only four in every 100 workers are skilled), while countries like Germany (74 percent), Japan (80 percent), and South Korea (96 percent) are way ahead of India. (Source - Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI)).

The construction industry is also not unaffected by this trend. Despite a 19 percent contribution in the Gross Domestic Product (equivalent to USD 3000 billion) in 2011-12, the fragmented nature of the industry and lack of industry-academia collaboration has led to the proliferation of unskilled workforce in the sector.

Reasons abound

The prime reasons behind the unskilled workforce in the construction sector are

1. Lack of industry-academia collaboration- There is a vast disconnect between the curriculum being taught and the real requirements of the industry. Jointly developed curriculum and mentorship from the industry will improve the situation.

 2. Poor remuneration- In comparison to the soft areas like IT and banking, the construction industry offers poor remunerations and lack of skills on the candidate’s part worsen the scenario.

 3. Lack of skilling courses- There is a real shortage of technical courses for the construction industry. Industrial training Institutes must include the construction and allied industry related courses as a trade so that the students can learn the advanced skills before entering the job market.

However, all is not hazy, and a recent focus on skill development across India has led to increased awareness about the construction industry as a career option.  

Government initiatives

Government of India has taken several initiatives under the Skill India mission to promote the construction industry as a promising and well-paid career option. Some of the initiatives are -

National Skill Development Council - It was set up with a primary objective of catalysing the skills landscape of India. It aims to proactively create quality vocational training institutions and enhance the capability of existing ones. It partners with international institutions, state governments, business houses, and industry at large for their active support to the cause of skill development in various trades.

Construction Skill Development Council of India – Registered as a nonprofit organisation under the National Skill Development Council (NSDC) through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, it is a one of its kind arrangement between the government and private sector to promote skill development in India. It helps in the active engagement of youth in skill development related to the construction sector, training the trainers, certification of trained workforce and alignment of their skills according to the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF).

National Occupational Standards - These standards are developed by the Construction Skill Development Council of India and are used by organisations to build curriculum and developing the training modules.

Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) - PMKVY is an outcome-based skill training programme of the Ministry of Skill Development. The objective of this scheme is to mobilise a large number of youth in taking up the outcome-based and industry-relevant courses and make them employable in the industry. CREDAI has tied up with NSDC to upgrade the skills of 25,000 construction workers.

National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) - It is a competency-based framework which organises skills and qualifications according to the levels of knowledge. These levels, ranging from one to ten, are arranged in terms of learning outcomes, which the learner must possess. The learnings could have been obtained by formal or informal training. Under this, the learner can get a certification from NSQF.

Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY) – Skill India mission aims to train the youth of India with skills relevant in the global market. To meet the demands of internationally relevant skills, India International Skills Centers are established by the government. These centers provide skills through PKVY so that youth aspiring to get a blue-collar job abroad (mostly in the Gulf region), can go with the required skills and certifications.

Even the real estate industry feels that skilled workforce in construction and allied sectors like welding, masonry, fitting, plumbing, and wiring etc. is the need of the hour and every stakeholder must make efforts to upgrade the skill level of the workforce.

Sharing the same sentiment, Avneesh Sood, Director Eros Group, opines that “Construction is a vital sector in any economy due to its immediate impact on the economic growth, competitiveness, jobs and productivity. A healthy construction industry requires strong private sector demand supported by the continuous availability of public sector infrastructure projects, sustaining jobs across the sector, in small, medium and large construction firms. It is essential not just for the delivery of physical infrastructure but is also an important driver of competitiveness. Construction industry comes next to agriculture in providing jobs in India. Although it is the second-largest job provider, it is highly informal and unorganised, with unskilled and semi-skilled workers. High-quality infrastructure improves the efficiency of the economy in general and also increases the attractiveness of India as an investment location for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). With the economy on a recovery path, there is strong optimism about the prospects for construction. The quantity, as well as the quality of infrastructure provided, will play an important role in a sustainable recovery.”

Focus on skill development from school level, recognition of informal learnings and a facilitative government approach will help the construction industry in particular and India in general to reap the benefits of its vast demographic dividend.