Skilling for a Better Tomorrow

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Venkataraman Subramanian

The construction industry is the second-largest industry in India and continues to contribute almost 9 per cent of the GDP. India has been a major contributor to blue-collar construction jobs abroad, bringing in great growth opportunities. Despite the sector being a key market, it still suffers from a significant shortage of skilled and educated workforce. This could also be from the root cause of limited skilling programmes and formal skilling initiatives that could address this issue.   

Construction, like any other vital industry such as manufacturing and agriculture, sets a benchmark for the country’s progress; hence the industry needs to take adequate measures to set up efforts to formally train the workforce. The structure of the labour force gives a clear indication that more than 50 per cent of it does not meet the basic education requirements, and a majority is not functionally-skilled either. Consequently, formal training is imperative to not only help in contributing to the upliftment of the industry but also have a significant effect on the overall national growth.

The real estate and construction sector in India is likely to face a critical skills shortage which is expected to reach 44 million by 2022 across all levels. Thus, the demand for professionals with proper industry knowledge is only set to rise. Currently, the gap is at 82-86 per cent in the number of professionals and the skill sets for core professions in this industry.

The current wave of unemployment coupled with the existing shortage in the skilled workforce could be an evident problem for the industry at large. The recent need for quick results in housing and healthcare infrastructure as India tries to become a manufacturing hub, warehousing driven by e-commerce proliferation and also to aid the growing need for well-made spaces within stipulated timelines are reasons why skilled labour is also relevant now more than ever. With a growing economy, skilling initiatives in the construction sector could facilitate India to become a well-developed nation.

Cognizant of this, initiatives such as the Construction Industry Development Council, National Institute of Construction Management and Research, etc., are a few of the initiatives in India to improve the productivity of the construction workers particularly. These have helped push the idea and importance of a skilled workforce in the industry.

However, there is still a striking gap in the demand and supply of a skilled workforce. The lack of a skilled workforce also has significant effects on slowing the pace of work and bringing forth optimum quality results. According to a report by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) titled “Real Estate and Construction Professionals in India by 2020”, there is a significant skills deficit across specialised domains of the built environment. The skills gap in the built environment sector was also addressed in a National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) report titled “Human Resource and Skill Requirements in the Building, Construction and Real Estate”. The real estate and construction sector in India is likely to face a critical skills shortage which is expected to reach 44 million by 2022 across all levels. Thus, the demand for professionals with proper industry knowledge is only set to rise. Currently, the gap is at 82-86 per cent in the number of professionals and the skill sets for core professions in this industry.

Mobilisers select potential trainees who are school dropouts and those from BPL families. The criteria set ensures that the benefits of the programme are indulged in only by the class that is in most need of it and can better their living situations through the programme. This is in alignment with the core thought of the programme to bring social development while developing the working class of the industry. This not only ensures better construction work but also a sense of national growth.

Aware of the existing gaps in the supply and demand of skilled labour, Saint-Gobain Gyproc, a market leader in Gypsum plasterboards, introduced a skilling initiative focused on the industry. This was taken ahead as a part of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). Along with the evident gap in the sector, the improved quality of result via a skilled workforce, the betterment of the construction workforce were crucial points that pushed Saint-Gobain Gyproc to take the initiative forward.

The Indian gypsum industry particularly is expanding at a rapid rate driven by the adoption of gypsum-based false ceilings and drywall partitions. Early on in the journey, Saint-Gobain Gyproc identified the deficit, which would have impeded the growth of the industry. Hence, in 2013, Gyproc India in close collaboration with Dr K.L Garg Vocational Training Institute commenced this Skill Building initiative through a learning centre in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh – the hub for most of the current tradesmen in the Indian gypsum industry.

Persistence and Dedication Pays Off 

Nitesh Tiwari

I am from the Gonda District In Uttar Pradesh. Our family is not financially well off. It became tough for my father to make ends meet. I could not pursue my education after Class XII due to financial problems. During that time, a person from my village who was working in Lucknow informed me that Dr K L Garg Vocational Training Institute in Telibaug provides free training with food and accommodation in Drywall and False Ceiling Installation. Saint Gobain Gyproc supports this institute. I took admission along with my friends, Mukesh and Bharat Babu.

The course comprises of two parts – theory and practical. We had two hours of theory classes every day, while the remaining hours were for practical training. During training, we learnt the concept of drywall and false ceiling, product knowledge, installation method, jointing, finishing and repairing. After completing the training, we were assessed and then certified. 

We were given placements in Mumbai and were appointed as helpers in Drywall Interior Fitout Limited at the World Tower site at Lower Parel, Mumbai. My starting salary was Rs 200 for eight hours. I left the job after working 15 days due to accommodation issues. I returned to my home town. However, due to the dire financial situation at home, I talked to Mr Emmanuel from Saint Gobain Gyproc for another placement. After ten days, I came back to Mumbai. There were times when I did not have enough money to eat. I had to ask for help from Emmanuel Sir. He gave me Rs 300 to buy food. Subsequently, I went to Bangalore to work in a company for a salary of Rs 9000 pm. The site closed after two months. I was devastated. I was diagnosed with dengue and had to return to my village. Two months later, after fully recovering from dengue, I went to Delhi to look for work. I was selected as a Supervisor in Symphony Interiors with a salary of Rs 20,000 p/m. After two years, I joined Vector Company at Rs 25,000 salary. Later, with the support of Saint Gobain Gyproc, I was selected as a Trainer at Labournet Company with a salary of Rs 31,000 p/m. I trained around 500 people. I was chosen as one of the Top 3 Trainers and received a prize also.

I had worked in False Ceiling and Dry Wall sector for over five years and felt the need to establish my own company. Mr Pradeep Mishra from Gyproc helped a lot. I started my own company for which I had to take a loan of Rs 4 Lakhs. Decor Home, Mumbai, hired me for the DAICEC site in Mumbai. I started work with six people, but it was not sufficient. I requested Saint Gobain Gyproc’s Skill Development team to provide more workforce. Gradually, we had more than 200 people working in my company. I have also received the Certificate of Appreciation from Gyproc and an award for Best Contractor from Decor Home. I now have ten sites in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore where more than 200 people are working.

My deepest thanks to Saint Gobain Gyproc for providing me and many like me an opportunity to learn skills and earn a livelihood with dignity.

Saint Gobain Gyproc initiated the process with ratifying ‘Drywall and False-Ceiling Trade’ as a vocational trade. They were also at the forefront of driving the approval for National Occupational Standards (NOS) and Qualification Packs (QP) for Gypsum trade by the NSDC. The trainee handbook for the initiative was developed with the support of CSDCI.

So far, Gyproc India has trained over 10,000 youth over the last five years to help create a skilled eco-system for the gypsum industry. Quite a few of these beneficiaries have become entrepreneurs and now employ other similarly trained construction professionals. 

The key effort of the programme is to train individuals in their craft and also bring social independence to them to venture and gain work based on their merit. The programme trains potential workers in diverse skills, ranging from installation of false ceiling and drywall to measurement and cutting of metal and boards, framing, boarding, jointing, and finishing. It also facilitates the employment of skill-trained persons in foreign countries intending to expand their scope of opportunities. Currently, there are two courses offered under the skilling initiative. The first course being the Assistant Technician Drywall and False-Ceiling course, and the other being Drywall and False-Ceiling Installer. These are three-month courses.

Mobilisers select potential trainees who are school dropouts and those from BPL families. The criteria set ensures that the benefits of the programme are indulged in only by the class that is in most need of it and can better their living situations through the programme. This is in alignment with the core thought of the programme to bring social development while developing the working class of the industry. This not only ensures better construction work but also a sense of national growth.

After training, the students are deployed with employers/contractors. Further, the trainees are free to undertake their work. This ensures complete independence to the graduates and helps them choose what the best possible option for them is. The options possible are well-advised in the programme. However, it is upon the trainee to make the choice that is appropriate for them.

The structure and enforcement of the effort have gained appreciation from various facets. The initiative has won awards on several platforms such as the SKOCH Award, CIDC Vishwakarma Award, Assocham Award, etc. The skill initiative is currently being driven across five schools in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities such as National Academy of Construction, Hyderabad, Telangana, Pratham, Kurud, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, Pratham, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, ASMACS, Cuttack, Odisha, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Skill Training Institute, Vijayawada, Telangana.

The training of an individual and the knowledge of his craft will help him not only make a secure living but also ensure quality work as seen in numerous cases. This will be especially beneficial to the entire industry where quality work is delivered, and the best effort is put forth. Ultimately, skill training is principally at the back of producing the best quality work for maximum consumer satisfaction.

Proud to be Drywaller

Mintu K Chandran

I was born in a humble, middle-class family in Kerala. My father moved from Kerala to Odisha to make a living, so you can say that we – my sister and I – grew up in two cultures. My father provided us with everything we need while my mother made us her world and kept us moving.

I was doing very well academically when in 2005, our life turned upside down. Our father suddenly left us with no financial support, no roof over our head, and incapable of arranging our meals. By God’s grace, I got a seat at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Sambalpur, to complete my secondary education. I then moved on to Jawahar Vidyalaya, Sundargarh, to complete my higher secondary education. After losing a year due to lack of funds and guidance, I did my bachelor’s degree in Commerce at the prestigious Ravenshaw University of Odisha.

The first three years after completing graduation were full of ups and downs. I learned about the gypsum industry from my mother, a salesperson in Kerala with a gypsum dealer. I started exploring more options to build my career in this industry. I enrolled at the National Academy of Construction, Hyderabad, a skill development initiative by a pioneer in the gypsum industry – Saint Gobain Gyproc – and the Govt of Telangana. The initiative by Gyproc was my gateway to the industry where I joined in August 2017 to learn the trade as an Assistant Technician Drywall and False Ceiling.

I graduated from NAC in September 2017. After months of research and attempts, on February 11, 2018, I debuted my entrepreneurial journey with my firm – Gypsum Corporation – Gypcorp – as a service provider and material dealer in Drywall and False Ceiling in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, by bootstrapping funds from friends and relatives. After two years of struggle and hard work, I have achieved an annual turnover of Rs 1.5 Crore. I achieved non-scalable victories in these two years of my entrepreneurial journey.

I have a long journey ahead. I have many dreams to fulfil, many milestones to overtake, and lastly, make my family, my people, my mentors, and my company proud. I wish to thank and convey my deepest gratitude to Saint Gobain Gyproc of India, with special mention of Mr Venkat Subramanian, Managing Director; Mr Girish Dash Head – Design and Technical; Mr Emmanuel Gurupnoor, Manager Skill Development, for their support in my journey. 

The skill development initiative of Saint Gobain Gyproc is making us worthy and capable. I hope that someday, we could become the strongest pillar of the Indian gypsum industry and keep the wheels moving.

This being the longest-running initiative for the brand, its success is evident in the success stories that have come up over the years. So far, Gyproc India has trained over 10,000 youth over the last five years to help create a skilled eco-system for the gypsum industry. Quite a few of these beneficiaries have become entrepreneurs and now employ other similarly trained construction professionals. In 2019, our student represented India at the World Skill Competition at Kazan, Russia, in trade Plastering and Drywall Systems. The greater success of the initiative is the rise in the living standards of the beneficiaries who have managed to gain work and uplift their family in ways such as building pucca houses for them, managing their siblings’ wedding expenses, and sponsoring their siblings’ studies.

The training of an individual and the knowledge of his craft will help him not only make a secure living but also ensure quality work as seen in numerous cases. This will be especially beneficial to the entire industry where quality work is delivered, and the best effort is put forth. Ultimately, skill training is principally at the back of producing the best quality work for maximum consumer satisfaction.

While Saint-Gobain Gyproc has conquered several milestones in their skill-training endeavour and lead the beckon on the gypsum industry, there is much that needs to be accomplished. The industry, in collaboration with the government, needs to not only make construction skilling more accessible but eventually, a requisite for construction and development projects across the country – sharing the onus of upskilling with developers themselves. These skilling initiatives will help shape the lives of the workforce and also bring in a much-needed structure to the industry with skilled craftsmanship.

With proper schemes to re-skill and up-skill, construction workers can help the industry grow and maximise the output of the industry. 

Venkataraman Subramanian is Managing Director – Gyproc, Saint Gobain India Private Limited.