Sri Lanka’s valued community of masons has left an indelible mark on Sri Lanka’s landscape, through countless construction projects. However, from the physically demanding nature of the work to limited access to medical and other insurance schemes, and inadequate opportunities for skills and knowledge development, the mason community continues to be confronted with many challenges.
Despite these challenges, masons like Sarath Wickramarathne have remained committed to their craft. Hailing from Gampola, Sarath has been a mason for the past four decades with big plans for the future. His son is attending the Engineering Faculty at the University of Wayamba while his daughter is following the Textile and Apparel Engineering stream at the University of Moratuwa. He wants to see both his children graduate and succeed in the world.
To support the education of Sarath’s children, INSEE Cement provided them with a scholarship through the INSEE Sathkara mason loyalty programme. INSEE Sathkara is a multifaceted initiative designed by INSEE Cement aimed at shaping the mason of the future – a financially, professionally and socially empowered individual contributing significantly to the advancement of both the local construction industry and Sri Lanka’s economy.
“The construction industry has become very difficult, especially with the bad economic situation in the country. There are not many opportunities for me these days,” says Sarath. “The scholarship contribution provided by INSEE Cement has been so helpful to make sure my children can continue their education during this tough period.”
Similar support was provided to the daughter of N. G. Chulananda. Chulananda, a mason from Matara with three decades of experience, was left unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 impact on the construction industry. In 2021, his daughter was accepted to the Management Faculty at the University of Kelaniya. Chulananda had been struggling to support his daughter’s education. To help ease the pressure, INSEE Sathkara offered Chulananda’s daughter a scholarship to help her continue with her studies.
Through the INSEE Sathkara programme, INSEE Cement’s approach is to build a certified and skilled workforce with recognized credentials to bridge a gaping skill gap in the construction industry. The program ensures sustainable capacity development for masons backed by National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) in collaboration with the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) of Sri Lanka.
“Our valued community of masons is one of our most important stakeholders. They can play a crucial role in driving the transformation of Sri Lanka’s construction industry,” says Jan Kunigk, Chief Executive Officer of INSEE Cement. “We believe that investing in their professional, social and financial growth will contribute to the built environment of the future.”
For Sameera Krishantha, a mason from Puttalam with 16 years of experience, the NVQ certification has helped him grow his skills. “Thanks to the certification programme, I had the opportunity to understand technical procedures and gain knowledge in the construction industry,” he said. “This is a nationally recognized certified, so with it, I can join a construction or project management company in the future.”
INSEE’s Sathkara initiative is multi-faceted and is designed to build the lives of the masons in a holistic way. For example, in December 2022, INSEE Cement distributed dry ration packs to 400 masons who were struggling with the impact of Sri Lanka’s economic downturn. The dry ration packs were distributed among masons in the Bopitiya, Pamunigama, Thudella and Ja-ela areas. K. D. Lal, one of the masons who received the dry ration packs, highlighted the importance of this support. “Many masons have lost their jobs and are facing a lot of financial difficulties. At a time when food and commodity prices were soaring, these dry ration packs really helped us and our families.”