The construction industry needs to adapt to advancing standards and “adequately train the emerging workforce”.
Anthony Keal, group skills facilitator at Master Builders Association Western Cape, says this is especially vital considering that more than 40% of people aged 15 to 34 were not employed or involved in education and training in the fourth quarter of last year.
The construction industry contributes 8.3% to total employment numbers and has shown a positive uptick in job opportunities, according to the recently released Career Junction Index, which showed a notable increase in hiring activity in the construction and building sector.
Keal says the opportunities for small, medium and micro enterprises, or sub-contractors, have been growing over the past 20 years, especially as large contractors sub-contract most of their work to ensure the employment of site supervision to manage risks, quality and productivity.
However, SMMEs in the building sector often do not have the continuous workload required to place young people on apprenticeships. In addition, due to the casualisation of labour, small businesses cannot sustain employment over long periods.
“As such, it is great to see that, in the past year, many centres of specialisation have been established in the hope that many more young people will strive to become artisans of the future.”
Keal says the department of higher education, through the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTOs), has also embarked on developing skills programmes. These programmes are often not scoped by experts in the industry but by instructors from technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.
“Once published, these skills programmes will become part-qualifications. This system suits the collective agreement as our T4, T3 and T2 will be formally recognised.”
The Master Builders Association also has a Skills & Education Trust that runs free courses for those already in, or wishing to enter, the construction industry.
“The trust will issue a certificate of receipt of donation and these receipts are recognised by all South African National Accreditation System-approved verification agencies.”
Keal notes the new Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment codes of good practice amendments which came into effect in December will also improve access to higher education.
“The amendments have introduced a new scorecard indicator whereby employers can now provide bursaries for tertiary education to students and claim points. We urge any corporates who can provide this opportunity to please do so.
“For the construction industry to survive and thrive it is vital to invest in the future workforce by way of upskilling and continued learning.
“Ongoing training should be considered a ‘key performance area’ for each site.”
If construction enterprises make every workplace a training area, he believes there will be an improvement in quality and productivity. The Master Builders Association suggests each business sends at least one supervisor on a mentorship programme this year.
“As an industry, it is necessary for members to take up the role of being leaders in training construction supervisors, health and safety officers and apprentices, as well as upskilling their workforce through short skills programmes.”