Contracting SMEs for labour-based public works

Contracting SMEs for labour-based public works

Contracting SMEs for labour-based public works

7–25 November 2022
The course is available in English, Français
Introduction to the course

The construction industry has one of the highest potentials to create jobs in both developed and developing countries. Globally, the industry accounts for 7.6% of the total employment, which is equivalent to approximately 230 million jobs.

This job-rich industry consists of mainly small firms (SMEs). These SMEs in the construction sector often face challenges compiling documents and bidding for tenders, accessing bank credits, and efficiently managing labour, materials, equipment, and finance. Clients of infrastructure investments, on the other hand, which are often government entities, also face difficulties when assessing the capacity of SMEs or contracting works and when monitoring the implementation and evaluating the overall quality of the works delivered.

Despite these challenges, engaging locally-based SMEs have various advantages in the context of decentralization and local development. These advantages include the rapid and less costly mobilization of services, engagement of local labour, long-term relationships with local clients, and the knowledge and access to locally available materials that can create local multiplier effects on employment and economy at large. Locally-based SMEs are, above all, likely to be more labour-intensive.

Over the last half-century, the ILO through its Employment-Intensive Investment Programme (EIIP), has trained a number of locally-based SMEs on labour-based methods that are cost-efficient and capable of producing quality infrastructure assets. Experiences show that the EIIP methods of engaging local SMEs have an overall impact of creating more and better jobs that are critically needed.

This course provides an interactive e-learning opportunity to understand the environment in which SMEs operate in the construction sector and explores how to engage them through transparent and efficient procurement procedures that can create an enabling environment for SMEs development. By undertaking a review of different approaches, case studies and tools, participants will learn how to engage SMEs as well as local communities for infrastructure works to create more and better jobs, while ensuring the quality of the assets to be constructed. This third edition of the course will have a specific focus on procurement and contracting procedures, including the introduction of a community contracting tool.

Who attends this course?

The course targets professionals involved in designing, procuring and implementing infrastructure works. The course specifically targets:

  • Government officials operating at the local, provincial and national level on public investments;
  • Social partners (e.g. engineers' associations, trade unions, etc.);
  • ILO, UN staff and development practitioners;
  • Donor organizations, working or would like to enhance the labour inputs of investments;
  • Public investment and employment policy advisors; - Research and education institutions.

The course covers the following four topics:


Learning Block 1: The construction sector, SMEs, and employment-intensive investments

Learning Block 1 will provide a general overview of the context in which SMEs operate, with a focus on developing countries, as well as the employment-intensive approach to infrastructure works and its advantages and challenges for implementation.

  • The construction sector at a glance: key statistical figures, trends, and policy frameworks
  • What constitutes an enabling environment for SMEs development in the construction sector
  • Overview of the ILO Employment-Intensive Investment Programme (EIIP)’s approach
  • Capacity constraints of local SMEs and other challenges

1 live session (90 minutes) on 14 November 2022


Learning Block 2: Appropriate management of contracting and administrative procedures

In order to implement employment-intensive infrastructure works, it is critically important to clearly define the scope of works to be performed by SMEs, taking into consideration their characteristics, capacities, and the policy environment. Thus clearly defined scope of works will then be integrated into bidding procedures for open, competitive and targeted procurement procedures that create an enabling environment for SMEs to develop, while ensuring quality outputs and value for money. This learning block will review what constitutes key elements to be considered when targeting SMEs for infrastructure works.

  • Understanding and defining the scope of works that can be performed by SMEs
  • Targeted procurement procedures
  • Payment systems and procedures
  • Appropriate contracts and instructions to bidders
  • Technical specifications and conditions of work
  • Community Contracting as a tool

2 live sessions (90 minutes) on 15 and 16 November 2022


Learning Block 3 : Building capacity for labour-based methods of work

The capacity of SMEs may be assessed in a threefold way: human resources, equipment, and finance. Human resources here pertain to technical knowledge and skills to carry out required tasks and organisational skills to manage the work productively, whereas access to and maintenance of appropriate light equipment is a requirement to successfully implement labour-based works. Equally important for the SMEs is access to necessary funds to mobilize the workforce and equipment on the ground. This learning block will discuss the key challenges identified in the first learning block, and how these challenges can be overcome.

  • Effective management of human resources and organisation of work
  • Systematized training opportunities: Hint from labour-based training institutions
  • Technology choice - Appropriate light equipment
  • Costing and resource planning for labour-based works

1 live session (90 minutes) on 17 November 2022


Learning Block 4: International labour standards and social/environmental safeguards in labour-based contracts

A productive workforce in a safe working environment is key to quality infrastructure works. Furthermore, SMEs are becoming more and more accountable for environmental and social responsibilities.  Social and environmental safeguards, guided by the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, thus play an integral role to protect the working conditions of all workers in an inclusive way, whilst protecting environment. This learning block will give an overview of key items to be considered in order to fulfil such accountability through contractual agreements between the client and SMEs.

  • Decent work principles
  • Environmental and Social Safeguards Guidelines
  • Sustainable procurement
  • Gender-responsive procurement
  • Disability inclusion
  • Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)

1 live session (90 minutes) on 18 November 2022


The course consists of four online Learning Blocks offered through the ITC-ILO eCampus online platform to be completed over a period of three weeks. At the beginning of each week, participants will have access to a new Learning Block.

Each Learning Block will be composed of:

  1. A flexible (asynchronous) self-guided online module  on eCampus
  2. A live webinar that will include sessions with experts and collaborative group exercise
  3. A quiz or an assignment to test participants’ knowledge

At the end of the course, participants will:

  • Know challenges and opportunities that SMEs in the construction sector face;
  • Know how to build the capacity of SMEs to carry out labour-based operations effectively;
  • Know best practices for open, fair, efficient and sustainable contracting and procurement procedures for SMEs in the construction sector;
  • Be equipped with the community contracting tool to directly engage local communities for specific tasks and nurture entrepreneurship;
  • Understand the social and environmental dimensions for infrastructure works and how to integrate them into contracting and procurement procedures; and
  • Build a network of practitioners working in the construction sector.

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