VG Sakthikumar, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter India, elaborates on the company's training initiatives and the industry scenario.
There is a huge gap of skilled operators available and required in the market. How is this affecting the construction equipment market?
In construction project tenders, it is mentioned that the contractor must use trained operators, but it does not say that they must deploy a certified operator. In the current scenario, majority of the contractors don't have properly trained and certified operators. Let us assume that for the last 10 years, on an average, about 60,000 construction equipment were sold every year. If you consider 60,000 units in a year, at least there will be a requirement of two operators and one mechanic for a machine. This means 180,000 operators and mechanics need to be trained per year.
Considering the average equipment life as five years (even though, the equipment is used for much longer period), the number of operators and mechanics required for these machines is about 900,000.
At the same time, the number of operators IESC have trained and certified is just below 20,000. This gaping shortfall in talent is not good for the growing economy. How are skill development initiatives progressing in the country for equipment operators?
Schwing Stetter India started the training department in the second year of its operations in 2000. In the absence of independent certifying agency, we tied up with the CII and city and guilds, London to certify the operator programmes for batching plants and concrete pumps. We have been training fresh candidates and retraining customer's employees since then. We continue to have a mandate for training some of the leading construction companies like L&T, HCC, etc continuously for more than 15 years. However, with the Government thrust on skilling people and formation of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), the Indian Construction Equipment Manufacturers Association (ICEMA) promoted and supported the formation of Infrastructure Equipment Skill Council (IESC) in 2014 as an apex body to spearhead the skilling of workforce in the industry, focusing initially on training and certification of operators and mechanics. Schwing Stetter India is one of the promoter stakeholders of IESC.
The IESC has come a long way since its inception and built a strong foundation for the skilling ecosystem in terms of developing standards covering over 80 per cent of the workforce, accrediting training partners and empanelling experienced trainers to deliver quality skill training pan India. While the Government, (Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship) has encouraged and supported the skill development programmes through its flagship scheme, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), a lot more needs to be done.
Since the cost of establishing facilities and conducting skill programmes on construction equipment is very high, the onus is on the equipment manufacturers, who are the major and most affected stakeholders in this, to support this initiative by firstly, expanding its in-house operator training schools and secondly, supporting private training organisations who have the passion to drive this change. It is important to train operators in both maintenance and troubleshooting. Training modules on sophisticated construction equipment operation would be a great value-addition. Operators have an outsized potential to impact quality and economic performance. Also, it is a known industry secret that about as much as 80 per cent of unscheduled production downtime in all industries are from the preventable operator errors. Skilled operators with sound technical knowledge are therefore the make-or-break factor in the long term success of several industries, more so in the highly time-intensive, labour intensive construction equipment applications. Robust evaluation and certification of operator skills are huge success factors.
What is the support from government in operator training/skill development?
Making certification compulsory, the government should help in spreading the messages of job opportunities available to young Indians in various skill categories. Many at times, lack of information is a major reason for not bridging the gap as India has a huge young and skilled population.
How are the operator-training initiatives progressing at the company?
Schwing Stetter India has completed training of 2,000 operators who received NSDC - RPL4 certifications and 200 operator trainings as of last year.
What are the latest technologies used in the operator training programme?
Animation, AR, VR, Simulation-based training for boom pump, piling rig, cranes, horizontal directional drilling are few of the latest technologies used in the training programmes of Schwing Stetter India.
What are your future plans on operator training activities?
We will reach out ourselves to various unemployed educated youth who can be further skilled in equipment operation, etc.