With training and certification in the construction industry lagging over the last decade, the sector is now scrambling to be able to capitalise on opportunities with large enterprises and state owned entities, says Frans Toua, CEO at specialist construction sector FET college Tjeka Training Matters.
Unqualified, uncertified plumbers
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.
Formal competency certification
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. “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.”
Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning
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.
Tjeka Training Matters partners with the Master Builders Association North (MBA North) on training and certification in the construction sector.