“It both hurts and it itches – companies want to work with qualified specialists on the one side, but they do not tend to let them away for long leave trainings on the other side – usually due to already planned assignments”Martina Krusteva, BCC - Bulgarian Construction Chamber (Bulgaria)

Once upon a time

  • The protagonist:

In 2014, the Bulgarian Construction Chamber (BCC), having realized that construction companies experience significant skills gaps, decided to expand its services to member companies and included educational services in its portfolio. The key actions were split in two components – policies and measures:

– Design strategic policies: Two devoted experts were hired to perform extensive research to analyze and understand companies’ training/skills needs and launch active policies for skills’ development.

– Taking active measures to build capacity and create sustainable employment: BCC founded its own subsidiary – “Construction Qualification” Ltd., aimed to directly support the construction companies – BCC members by training their workers based on their actual needs.

  • The situation:

Before we launched the training services, we conducted research among the construction companies to understand what are their needs for skills, what type of trainings are needed and the duration of a training course and what is maximum fee the companies are ready to pay for this.  Based on the identified needs, BCC, through its subsidiary “Construction Qualification” Ltd., started providing training services to the construction workers of the companies – BCC members for free.  The lecturers were well known trainers and the practical trainings were provided by the best equipped experimental stations in the towns of Pleven and Stara Zagora. We were motivated and convinced that skills development in general, and especially those towards energy efficiency measures’ implementation, is the right direction. Thus we positioned BCC and its subsidiary as expert in the field of professional trainings with high level of understanding of education market, balancing between actual needs and policies to find a win-win solution for both workers and employers.

Then one day

At first, we stumbled across the following folk psychology phenomenon – high level of criticism combined with expectations that “someone has to do something for me”, and in particular, educated and well trained workers are supposed to come for free. This situation is perfectly illustrated by the Bulgarian proverb “it both hurts and it itches” – “It both hurts and it itches” – companies want to work with qualified specialists on the one side, but they do not tend to let them away for long leave trainings on the other side – usually due to already planned assignments”. Also, there are only two well-equipped practical training centers in Bulgaria and companies had to send their employees away for a practical training at their expenses. Last but not least, we realized that the demand for training services is regulatory conditioned, e.g. the demand for trainings in construction is driven by legislative amendments and compulsory requirements for specific skills, rather than by free market indications.

The moral

Having realized this particular behavior of construction companies BCC slowly started changing its approach to the market. We explored the virtual opportunities for provision of theoretical trainings and speeded up their implementation when the pandemic started. We also moved the practical trainings from the training centers to the premises of the organization, which are now accompanied by appropriate online theoretical courses. In addition, BCC recognized that paid trainings gather more trainees and we introduced a new funding scheme, based on which companies have to cover some of the training expenses. Finally, we are now trying to influence legislative changes to boost skills’ development – BCC has recently submitted a proposal for Ordinance for design, implementation, control and acceptance of thermal insulation systems of buildings.

Our story is open-ended as skills development turned out to be a long term task, requiring a lot of efforts, motivation, learning and exploring. We have made some steps forward and we know that many more have to be done. We have realized that if we want to be successful, we should try to change mindsets convincing companies that energy efficiency in buildings is the future and we should be ready to meet the market challenges. It won’t be easy, however, what we can tell for sure is that teaming up, partnering, supporting each other, learn from each other and thinking out of the box always bring good results.

Martina Krusteva

Head of Dept. Professional Qualification, BCC – Bulgarian Construction Chamber (Bulgaria)

Master’s in Labour Psychology with expertise in VET matters, professional qualification and social dialogue. Involved in the implementation of BCC’s strategic policies and measures in the field of VET, aimed at skills improvement, and continuous further education of construction workers.