In late nineteenth-century British India, native contractors, seasonal labourers and various building trade communities (bricklayers, carpenters, stone cutters, stone masons, earth workers, blacksmiths) worked on the construction sites in and around the city of Pune. Construction skills were passed on from generation to generation through forms of on-site apprenticeship.

Up until today the majority of construction workers is trained on the job. Yet, since 1889, a number of technical schools offering practical courses in the building trades have been established in Pune on private or government initiative. While the emergence and expansion of civil engineering education in Pune has been recorded in literature, much less is known on these vocational schools. Who where the founders of these institutes and what were their motives? What was the share and success of building related courses in these schools? Were new construction methods thought? In which format was education organised?

In an attempt to answer these questions, this paper analyses a combination of informational brochures, administrative documents and student records of three institutes offering practical courses in the building trades before 1980: The Victoria Jubilee Memorial Technical School (1889, now Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Industrial Training Centre), the Training Centre for War Disabled Aundh (1949, now Industrial Training Institute Aundh) and St. Joseph’s technical institute (1959). A comparison with literature on the emergence of vocational schooling for building craftsmen in the West (Addis, Bertels, Carvais and Nègre, Clarke) highlights similarities and differences and places this study in an international perspective.