Upskilling in an era of change

With rapid urbanization, rising workplace expectations and constant technology changes, the demand for a skilled workforce, especially the blue-collared workforce, has increased multi-fold. It is time to renew our efforts on upskilling and drive real, sustainable value to the entire ecosystem.

Sandeep Sethi,Managing Director, Work Dynamics – West Asia, JLL
Sandeep Sethi
Managing Director, Work Dynamics – West Asia, JLL

Real estate and construction sectors in the country have come a long way. With the opening of FDI in the Indian real estate in March 2005, the sector has seen a tremendous jump in investments and construction activity in the last 14 years.

In addition to this, sectoral reforms, increasing transparency and rapid urbanization and infrastructure development have collectively added strength to these sectors in terms of growth. With the increased adoption of real state outsourcing services like facilities management, workplace design and allied services, the sector has emerged as one of the largest employers for millions in the organised and unorganized space.

According to the NSDC Volume 5 report on the Human Resource and Skill Requirements in the Building Construction and Real Estate Sector, the construction space will employ approximately 76 million people from the current levels of over 60 million to be become the largest employer by the end of 2022. This means an additional creation of around 16 million jobs in the next four years.

By 2025 the real estate alone sector is expected to generate employment for more than 17 million individuals in the country.

With the sector poised for linear growth, the need for skilled workforce will continue to rise. However, the next few years are critical, as there has been a tectonic shift in the way these requirements have cropped up in the past few years. With technology and automation becoming increasingly pervasive at work, a lot of jobs on the field across the spectrum often need superior skills and know-how of technology and  tools.

Thus, a number of functions including those across facilities management, projects and development services and on-site construction roles now require skilled workforce and labour.

Unfortunately, the industry has not been able to impart skills at the required pace. NSDC data shows that more than 80 percent of the employment in the building and construction sector is minimally skilled workforce. Take for example, the facilities management sector alone requires approximately 5 million skilled workers in the next three years.

It is now a well-known fact that the shortage of skilled labour is a long-term challenge in the industry and continues to put pressure on the cost and time of projects. Moreover, a number of factors continue to put the projects under a certain amount of operational and functional risk.

As skill become increasingly critical to delivering a real impact at workplaces, skill upgradation becomes the core and all stakeholders across the ecosystem will require to work towards holistic development of the workforce.

So what can be done?

Imparting of skills at a mass level for various services within the domain continues to be the objective for most firms operating in the space. A number of formats can be applied. Partnering with a government or non-government agency that is involved in skills training is the quick solution that is often seen as the best approach.

Education cells (popularly called the learning and development teams) working within corporates partner with leading government agencies including NSDC to facilitate the training. While the industry may be actively doing a lot of transformation inculcation of an in-house learning environment works wonders in this aspect. JLL, for example, has been a front runner on this front.

The Firm has taken small steps towards bridging the skills gap across its Facilities Management business by partnering with the government’s ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ (RPL) programme, being run by the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), across India. The initiative, Project Unnati, which started in the fourth quarter of 2017, built a momentum rapidly to deliver close to 90,000 man-hours of training and upskilling.

Through this initiative, the candidates have been able to align existing competencies with the National Skills Qualification Framework. The Firm as a first also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Best in Class Employer (for RPL programme) with the Tourism and Hospitality Skill Council set up under the aegis of NSDC.

Another method could be inculcating the culture of training and development within the organization for the ground staff. A number of progressive companies whom I am in touch with have already understood the significance and value of this backward integration – a self-sustainable production model.

While this model increases efficiency and results in on-time delivery, the model is also being utilized for training of the existing workforce. Specialized industry trainers are then hired to train the existing staff.  

Upskilling, not just training!

Here it is worth mentioning that the current workforce requires upskilling and not just training. Upskilling, as the term is, means providing additional skills by way of training. It is important to continue working with the trainer, whether in-house or an outside agency, to add additional skills to employees’ portfolio. JLL has numerous such examples, where staff has risen in ranks basis his continuous learning and development.

Against the popular notion of providing monetary incentives, upskilling will naturally lead to diverse career opportunities and sustainable skills for the workforce thereby leading to a domino effect where more and more people feel encouraged to join the workforce.

I see this as a very positive change. A lot of workers who we have worked with in NSDC’s RPL programme came back with the feedback that the biggest gain from this programme was a sense of dignity that this gave them. Also, we got encouraging reports of friends and families of these workers wanting to join the workforce. And this is just one side of the story. We saw a higher and consistent level of service quality from the re-skilled staff, which led to higher levels of client satisfaction.

This exciting journey has just started and we have a long way to go. The positive signs from the clients, the people and the industry are encouraging and I sincerely believe that there is long term, sustainable benefit to all involved in what we call this initiative – Project Unnati.

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