The companies, which include NSE-listed blue chips, have been prodded into action by an “acute” shortage of qualified construction workers – a situation that threatens to slow down the industry, thereby undermining the firm’s profitability.
Bamburi Cement has, for example, embarked on a training programme that seeks to train 1,600 masons on site planning, drawings, setting out and foundations, mix designs and site safety procedures among other skills. The firm’s marketing director Irene Onacha says the programme “seeks to improve the vocational skills of masons, who are key players in the construction value chain, thus enhancing quality and safety of buildings”.
According to Ms Onacha, Bamburi, which has so far trained 500 masons, is seeking to partner with the National Construction Authority (NCA) to train more construction workers. The training has been conducted in Nairobi, Nyeri, Migori, Embu, Chuka, Meru and Maua.
Bamburi is following in the footsteps of HF Group (formerly Housing Finance), which is currently undertaking an ambitious programme that seeks to train and list one million construction workers through the HF Development and Investments Limited (HFDI) – formerly known as the Kenya Building Society.
The company is working in partnership with several organisations, including NCA; VSO Jitolee, a non-profit organization; and building materials retailer Alibhai Shariff.
HFDI has, in collaboration with the HF Foundation, established a centre at the Komarock Heights site in Komarock estate, Nairobi.
The centre will be used for apprenticeship trainings for students who will be undertaking vocational training.
HF Foundation executive director Winnie Imanyara told journalists last year that the initiative would address the shortage of skilled artisans in the industry, which had adversely affected the quality of buildings.
“The training of artisans is critical as a means of curtailing the growing incidence of poorly constructed structures in the country,” she said, adding that smaller contractors were struggling to find skilled labour due to lack of resources necessary to address quality issues.
Other firms that are training artisans include the China Road and Bridge Corp., which is training railway workers, and Crown Paints, which has embarked on a programme that offers free basic brush application training to painters to enhance their skills.
Shortage of skilled workers in the local building and construction industry is forcing property developers to hire jua kali artisans – most of whom are nothing but quacks – which has led to the rising building collapse cases in various parts of the country.