With more than 50 years’ experience in the local and international flooring industry, Denver Coleman, Chairman of Polyflor SA, answers questions posed by installers, architects and readers. In this issue, he discusses how flooring contractors can go about overcoming the challenge of finding and keeping a skilled, qualified team.

I am a flooring contractor and I am constantly struggling to maintain a skilled, qualified team. Where do I even start? Heine van der Merwe – Centurion

Skills development and training has become a very topical issue in the country. Local industry is feeling the effects of a poorly trained workforce and a quick fix is unfortunately nowhere in sight. It is a daunting process to know where to start and how to make a difference.

On a positive note, the problem has been formally acknowledged and both government and industry are consciously working towards addressing the issue. I am personally very excited about the formation of the Flooring Industry Training Association (FITA). This body was established to represent the flooring industry and officially facilitate accredited training and registration of flooring installers nationally. FITA will provide the industry with a pool of trained and accredited artisans, ensuring the uplifting of standards, which will naturally be of economic benefit to all concerned. For a contractor to have preferred installer status is obviously a massive benefit for securing those sought-after projects, as well as ensuring peace of mind for both the client and product manufacturer and resulting in the correct standard of workmanship.

It may take some time to reap the benefits of this programme, so in the interim, we recommend the following:

•    Ensure your teams have all had extensive on site and product training and invest the time to do so. There are experts in the field that are willing to give of their time and knowledge.
•    Ensure that you always provide constant on-site supervision and very importantly, provide a frame of reference in terms of the required standard and expectation.
•    Partner with a reputable manufacturer who provides on-site technical guidance and who will assist you throughout the project.
•    Provide the teams with the correct specialised tools and equipment. This is vitally important for achieving a quality installation and it makes complex installations in vinyl, so much easier.
•    Pay your teams fairly and provide fair and reasonable working conditions. There seems to be an industry gripe about poor wages and conditions. No installer/ fitter can be expected to perform at his best when faced with these issues.
•    Identify those fitters with potential and nurture them. Register them on the FITA programme with particular focus on RPL (recognition of prior learning) assessment and certification. This will stand them in good stead for the new legislation that will be implemented in February 2018. All fees and instructions can be found at www.fitasa.co.za. Uplifting and empowering your team is guaranteed to be of benefit.

At the pace at which we are all expected to function in today’s world, the rate at which cities are built, the build times imposed on contracting teams and the deadlines that are enforced on us, contracting teams are under huge pressure to perform at their optimum, often under difficult circumstances and with very little room for error. No one can afford downtime and costly delays. It is in everyone’s best interest to obviate all the negative factors and enable our workforce with the very best knowledge and skills.

With many years of experience in the industry, I have learnt that one is only as good as one’s team. The current skills crisis is a direct result of previous generations not enabling their workforce effectively. Positive steps in the right direction will most definitely make a difference and it is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the industry to take a stand. The age of complacency and avoidance is gone. We need to invest in our people. It is the time to educate, enable and empower.

For more information, contact Polyflor SA on +27 (11) 609 3500 or via www.polyflor.co.za.