Construction sector needs formally certified skills to capitalise on opportunities

    A lack of focus on formal SAQA accredited training and certification in recent years is set to catch up with the construction sector scrambling to capitalise on opportunities with large enterprises and state owned entities. This is according to Frans Toua, CEO at specialist construction sector FET college, Tjeka Training Matters, which partners with the Master Builders Association North (MBA North) on training and certification in the construction sector.

    “Training and certification has lagged in the construction industry over the past ten years,” Toua says. “Many employers have been reluctant to invest in accredited training for their staff because of the economic environment in the country. The challenge with this is that a lack of training, competence and certification ends up costing them in terms of late penalties, rework and brand impact. They don’t calculate the cost of poor workmanship based on low technically skilled workforce and a lack of the right level of supervisory skills. But the fact is that unless they invest in training to ensure they do it right the first time, they risk costly rework and penalties, as well as a poor reputation for shoddy workmanship and not adhering to deadlines.”

    He cites the recent Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) and Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) Plumbing National Survey, which found that unqualified and uncertified plumbers operating in the market is an ongoing challenge in the sector, posing a risk to both plumbing businesses and public health and safety. “Many of these unqualified plumbers are unaware of the South African National Standards which determine the minimum requirements to ensure that installations are safe and fit for purpose,” he adds.

    Toua notes there has also been an increase in the number of construction firms reporting that they are incurring audit penalties because their foremen lack the right level of supervisory skills. “This is also a huge problem – foremen may have technical experience, but may not know how to plan, organise and control. Or they may have theoretical project management skills, but they don’t understand the industry or have the right technical knowledge. They need both management and technical skills, so they need industry specific supervisor training,” he says.

    In many cases, teams may be capable and experienced, but lack formal competency certification. This puts companies at risk of losing key projects. “Most large enterprises, mines and state owned entities are now asking for proof of competency at every level, and we find many contractors are now having to rush to get their people certified for competency, which in most cases is not possible as experience only does not guarantee full competency and there are no quick fixes unfortunately,” he says.

    Toua says now is the time for companies to become proactive and invest in training and certification for their employees, ahead of a slight expected upturn in the construction sector[i]. “Even short technical skills courses like basic bricklaying, basic carpentry and so on – right down to training on how to use an angle grinder – are necessary, since the customer wants to see evidence that people are competent. Ahead of the industry growth phase, now is the time to ensure that teams are certified and competent, as companies will be asked to present those credentials in future.”

    Individuals and self-employed ‘artisans’ who have experience but lack the necessary certifications should also endeavour to undergo training and certification courses to improve their job and business growth prospects, he says. Toua notes that prior to an individual applying for a trade test, he/she has to undergo the new Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL) process that includes – written and theoretical tests.

    Article Source: www.crown.co.za

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