The Builders Association of India represents a huge community of construction contractors and some developers. And, as an office bearer of this organisation, I can see a severe shortage of construction engineers and allied professionals looming in India, especially with a number of infrastructure projects coming up.
Ten years ago we could get a fresh civil engineer at Rs 5,000 a month. Now, even for campus recruits we have to pay Rs 25,000. What's more, we have to spend three months training them. For senior engineers with about 10 years' experience, the salary can be as high as Rs 1 lakh a month.
In recent times, students have been veering towards information technology because it pays better. But now that there is a lot of work in building roads, infrastructure and other facilities, the demand for civil engineers has shot up and this has exacerbated the shortage. Many builders are coming to us for training; but how many can we train so fast?
It is not just civil engineers who are in short supply. Construction has become highly mechanised and needs people to operate or drive various kinds of machinery. There is a shortage of such people too. Machinery operators who used to get Rs 3,000 a month are getting Rs 10,000 now. Machinery companies have set up schools in places such as Pune to train such operators, because those who buy the machinery do not know how to operate them.
You only have to step back and take a look at the big picture to get a sense of the requirement. The JNURM (Jawaharlal National Urban Renewal Mission) alone has a budget of Rs 1,50,000 crore. Then there is the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which is building highways across the country. Just these two mega projects add up to a lot of demand.
In all, we need 1.5 lakh skilled workers. And the whole lot cannot be trained as fast as is required. So we need a longer-term plan for training. For a reason, take a look at China. The country has been able to build huge projects with legions of trained people. We have to urgently get into the training mode to build the capacities we need.
(As told to N Madhavan)
The author is honorary general secretary, Builders Association of India.