SKILL DEVELOPMENT

Mid-Career training – The hidden bomb that is ticking in the construction Industry in India

Construction industry in India has grown by leaps & bounds in the last couple of decades almost reaching to be the top most employer of direct & indirect workforce. Supporting this industry as a backbone is the millions of knowledge workers – engineers, architects, consultants, subject matter experts, supervisors and non-technical support team without which nothing moves. One major challenge the industry is facing today is the lack of mid-career training – across the length & breadth of the entire workforce – that is threatening to blow a big hole in the future of the industry. For, it is the passing on of skill & knowledge – from one tradesman to the other, one supervisor to the other, one craftsman to the other and from one engineer or architect to the other that has kept the industry alive for generations and has ensured that the lessons learned in one generation is passed on seamlessly to the next as if by some unseen force. This flow of knowledge ad-continuum seems to be threatened seriously due to the extreme pace at which changes have taken place in the country in the last couple decades. It may not be inappropriate to think, perhaps, that we have seen more construction in the country in the last 25 years than in the last century itself. Whereas I do not have any tangible data to support my thoughts on this but a cursory look at volume & extent of construction activity taking place all over would point to this conclusion.

The victim of this exponential growth seems to be the disproportionate importance being given to training to professionals during their working career. An indicator of this is the growth in institutes of repute offering training in construction industry – from about a handful about twenty five years ago (INSTRUCT included) to less than 25 now – a truly sad state of affairs considering the demonic proportions the industry has grown in the period.

The Government, on its part, has done its bit encouraging skill development and also supporting on the expense side by treating legitimate costs incurred in training as an allowable expense. Whereas the Skill India initiative is in its early days and the real benefits yet to kick-in, it is the industry itself that has to take the blame for the lack lustre importance given to training. We seem to be stuck in the Gen 1 thought process of ‘We spend money on our employees for training and then they leave us to join our competitors’ perennially and instead of taking the much needed first step and go ahead to train the employees. If one’s trained employee is taken by other, there would be enough available in the market if everyone decides to chip in &start training their knowledge workers without consideration of the short term. This would make the industry a quantum leap. Even if one employee in a company gets trained in a month, with more than ten thousand companies in the industry, we would be looking at about 1.2lakhs trained employees per year which, while being small compared to the size of the industry, is a significant first step towards achieving continuous improvement goal of the industry.

We have hours to spend on whatsapp but no time to get trained or train others…

We have all the time to update status & post wahwahs on linkedin&facebook but no time to attend training programmes…

We have lakhs of rupees to spend on full page ads eulogising our companies& products but no budget for training our people who are the real heroes behind the companies…

We have expert opinion on literally everything under the sun but no real action on the issues that are crippling our industry..

We have mastered the art of copy & paste without investing any time on increasing breadth or depth of knowledge around us…

We are confused about what is data, what is information, what is knowledge and what is expertise akin to can’t see the wood for the trees…

We are mistaking coffee shop talk & discourses on the social media for hard-nosed training & mentoring which is need of the hour if we are to truly represent the great industry that our forefathers have left us and if we are serious about leaving the industry in better shape than what it was when we entered it..

All is not lost if one were to go by the more than a dozen training programmes conducted by INSTRUCT over the last several months all of which have gone full house and some of them are so much in demand that outstation programmes are much sought after. There has also been several corporate training opportunities taken up by INSTRUCT wherein we have trained engineers & managers for entire companies. Whereas this is offering some solace & green shoots, I keep my fingers crossed and hope that the tide has indeed changed for the better..hope to see INSTRUCT to be the nodal point of choice to develop high skilled resources for not only India but the whole world in time to come.