Perla Cristerna Montúfar
Director General
Training Institute for the Construction Industry (ICIC)

Lower Construction Risk Through Formal Training

Tue, 11/01/2016 - 15:00

Workers on the operational side of construction have a tradition of passing their knowledge from generation to generation. Fathers often teach their sons all the secrets to building the city’s structures. But the absence of certification and formal training can make construction sites risky places to work. “Even though many workers have more than 20 years of experience, their lack of certification is a concern,” says Perla Cristerna, Director General of the Training Institute for the Construction Industry (ICIC). The institute works to ensure comprehensive workforce development. ICIC is an institution that belongs to CMIC and was created to compliment the General Labor Act, which stipulates that employees have a right to receive training. Says Cristerna: “We strive to always research, investigate and stay up to date with all legal requirements and technological advances.”

Infrastructure offers the greatest level of employment to Mexico’s economically active population through construction but the industry needs to promote more training programs, which is not an easy feat because projects are often rushed by tight deadlines, says Cristerna. The institute offers the sector a more formal training option through certified courses, focusing on companies that have workers without formal education. “Our courses can take the company to another level,” she says. “We offer training to our 11,000 affiliated companies and their employees. Every part of the sector from operations to management can use our institution to gain knowledge. The Technical Construction Institute (ITC), another institute that along with ICIC were created by the Mexican Chamber of the Construction Industry (CMIC), can even grant bachelor and postgraduate degrees.”

When the Institute began offering safety and environmental protection courses 30 years ago, most construction companies did not have any kind of strategy regarding these topics. Construction sites were dangerous because workers did not use safety gear. Small to large companies are now incorporating management departments dedicated to safety and protection. “Our courses help reduce risk in the industry,” says Cristerna. “We have evolved to offer computer classes that include highly specialized courses that teach students to use design programs for architectural plans like the Building Information Modeling (BIM) software.” The courses have significantly impacted the industry by increasing the use of technology and safety standards on construction sites. Many businesses have improved their human resource abilities and increased the productivity and quality of their projects, says Cristerna.

ICIC also envisions the inclusion of more females at the operational level of construction and has specially designed programs to train women in a wide variety of skills, including plumbing and electricity. “In the past, women were mostly recruited to take care of the cleaning,” Cristerna says. “Since businesses began incorporating our gender-designed programs, paradigms in the industry have shifted. Women show more commitment to work in comparison to men, who sometimes skip Mondays. In total, more than 19,000 women are being trained for basic construction positions.”

The institute’s top objective is to ensure the comprehensive development of the workforce to improve company productivity. “We have over 700 training courses that are supervised by the International Labor Organization,” Cristerna says. ICIC divides its courses into a pyramid that separates positions into three levels. Operational staff is at the bottom, followed by midlevel and management at the top. ICIC guarantees accessibility by keeping course locations flexible and the material targeted to the needs of the students.

ICIC has strategically placed programs in 43 delegations in different states with 60 training offices. “Across the country we have over 1,500 instructors,” Cristerna says. “We also offer distance learning for workers who need online platforms to acquire certificates. For management training, we offer video conferences.”