“There is a persistent shortage of construction skills in South Africa,” this is according to Allen Bodill, Executive Director of the Master Builders Association Western Cape (MBAWC).
To meet the needs of the sector, the MBAWC, a registered trade association for employers in the building industry, offers a wide ranging programme of training. This includes basic skills acquisition courses, apprenticeship initiatives, a cadet education programme, the upskilling of construction supervisors and frequently held seminars for members on the latest industry developments.
Regarding the organisation’s basic skills acquisition courses, Group Skills Facilitator, Tony Keal, says, “In the Western Cape a large percentage of people working in the industry either have very basic literacy and numeracy skills or none at all. As those people cannot enter into an apprenticeship or any formal type of training, we offer our members’ employees a variety of basic skills courses such as construction carpentry, basic bricklaying, scaffold erection, scaffold inspection, waterproofing and painting.
Training is provided based on demand for particular skills by our members who only have to pay for the employee’s wages whilst we finance the full training costs. We refer the candidates to accredited training providers in the Western Cape. Certificates of competence are issued upon completion of a course – equipping the employee with a marketable skill.”
Apprenticeships are the MBAWC’s core training offering. “There are two ways in which we run our apprenticeships,” explains Keal.” The one is member driven, while the other is orchestrated by the MBAWC.”
Member-driven apprenticeships involve the putting forward of young employees who can benefit from upskilling in a specific area. To be considered, potential apprentices should have a Grade 10 education or higher with maths literacy and a technical subject.
They undergo psychometric and personality tests to determine their suitability for the industry. The MBAWC then registers the apprentice with the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS), sends them to an accredited training provider and funds their training up until the completion of their trade test, which is also organised by the MBAWC.
The member company does not have to outlay any money, but provides experiential training. In this way, the member company employing the apprentice will have their scorecard enhanced and will at the end of the financial year, receive a tax rebate from SARS. On passing the trade test, the apprentice will receive a certificate from the Department of Higher Education.
Recognising a shortfall in certain trades, the MBAWC has implemented another apprenticeship programme which gives those with a Grade 12 education the opportunity to build on their academic foundations. Not only does the organisation pay for their training and place them with members to put their theoretical knowledge into practice, but also pays them a small stipend.
Apprentices are generally placed with smaller member companies, as they do not have the rollover capacity of work associated with their larger counterparts, meaning that the apprentices get proper on-site practical training for an extended period. According to Keal, “It is hoped that these people will one day go on to become entrepreneurs who are crucial for the industry as they can create much-needed jobs.”
The MBAWC’s three-year cadet education programme is geared towards the development of future foremen/construction supervisors. The programme, based on teachings from the British Construction Industry Training Board, will enable those with a National Technical Certificate (NTC6) to attain an National Qualifications Framework (NQF) 4 qualification, which is equivalent to a diploma from a University of Technology. The ‘cadets’ will be ready to start work in the industry as soon as they receive this qualification and are placed with MBAWC members.
In a bid to boost skills in construction employees, the MBAWC has devised a 12 module programme that is run as and when required by members who put forward candidates. On completion of a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate their understanding of what has been taught, the aspirant supervisors are issued with a certificate.
The organisation also awards hundreds of thousands of Rands in bursaries to students each year, covering their tuition fees. These are awarded to 2nd year students who are employees of, or related to, MBAWC members and who undertake studies at tertiary institutions offering courses in the built environment field. To qualify for a bursary, students have to have demonstrated very good academic results in their first year of study. For the bursary to be extended to third year and beyond, the student must consistently perform well in their chosen course. “When we invest in bursary students, we are investing in human capital for leadership in the industry,” shares Keal.
“A highly skilled workforce is absolutely indispensable to a contractor trying to deliver quality buildings in a safe, timeous and cost-effective manner. The more we can upskill people, the less rework is required, the more efficient the workforce will become and the safer they are likely to work, resulting in our member companies having greater control over the risks involved in entering into contracts with their clients,” concludes Bodill.