Following the success of Belgotex Floorcoverings Academy, under the control of Allan de Wit, which took the unprecedented step of partnering with two schools in the Western Cape to implement an ongoing carpet installation training programme and qualification system for their pupils, this has now been extended to a school in Gauteng.

The two schools that were instrumental in inaugurating this programme are Van Kervel School in George, and Weskus School in Saldanha Bay. Van Kervel was the first to start the programme – in 2008 – and they run a four-year course, starting with 30 students of whom approximately 10 per year complete the course and leave school.

Once a year, Lynn Gillespie of Belgotex Floorcoverings Cape Town arranges with the carpet retailers in the Garden Route area for the students to work with their fitting teams for a week, as a work project in school time. In addition to this the students work with these companies at times during school holidays to gain more experience. This has been very successful in integrating and introducing them into the trade. Feedback from the trade after these sessions has been very positive.

After the first year in 2008, several students went to work in the trade in Knysna and Oudtshoorn. One of the Oudtshoorn candidates has gone as far as studying carpentry and intends to return after his studies to work in the carpet trade and bring his carpentry skills into the business.

“Some of the 2011 graduates went to work for a carpet company in George. During discussions with the owner of that firm I was told that he is very impressed by the attitude with which these students come into the trade. They are knowledgeable on the expectations of the work environment and the job on hand which he finds most beneficial,” says Lynn.

The Weskus venture is now in its third year. A group of eight students started the programme in 2010, and spent the last 2 years of their school career in this programme, leaving school at the end of 2011.

This year has started with a new batch of nine students and they will again spend two years completing the programme as we have set it up, but this will change once the CETA (Construction Education & Training Authority) programme is up and running; from then on they will be following the prescribed syllabus.

This unique system gives the learners an opportunity to learn the skill of installing carpet so that they can decide on this as a career option. With this training they can decide to become entrepreneurs and start their own subcontracting company or alternatively they will have the skills to get a job as an installer.

Belgotex strategically decided to roll out this programme to ensure that new skilled labour comes into the industry all the time, recognising the fact that it is necessary to continuously grow the younger generation to ensure a future for the industry. In addition to this the program assists in skills development and work opportunities.

Success has led to the Sparrow FET College
The success of these ventures has resulted in the Belgotex Academy partnering with another school – this time Sparrow FET College, Sophiatown, Johannesburg – a venture that was given a ‘red ribbon’ launch during April that included completely equipping a classroom for the training of these skills, both in theory and practical instruction.

FLOORS in Africa attended the launch, which included speeches from Sonja Martin, Acting CEO of the CETA; Jackie Gallagher, the founder and general manager of Sparrow FET College; and Frank Moffat, CEO of Belgotex Floorcoverings.

After welcoming everyone and thanking them for attending the launch, Jackie Gallagher said that education at Sparrow is outcome-based, which means that the achievement of good results is of paramount importance, and the equipping of learners to be entrepreneurs or to find good work opportunities is crucial.

“These new development programmes at Sparrow are skills-focused, with the aim of building a strong new generation of entrepreneurs that will ensure new entrants to the flooring industry,” she said.

In this inaugural programme, 14 selected students (8 males and 6 females) will partake in the customised workshop which has been equipped by Belgotex where both the theoretical and practical certification course will take place.

“Power of partnership between industry and schools is crucial to ensure a sustainable future for young people, and we applaud Belgotex for this initiative,” she concluded.

In his address Frank Moffat gave full credit to Allan de Wit for rolling out these programmes and said, “The focus on young entrepreneurs is great for the industry, but for this to be successful you need to partner with schools and government (via the SETAs – Sector Education & Training Authorities).”

“We at Belgotex undertake to continuously give full support to Sparrow, and wish all the students good luck. Meanwhile, I would like to thank Sparrow for their enthusiasm in this project,” he said.

In making a speech that left everyone feeling very positive about the Construction SETA, Sonja Martin said that although there are problems in CETA, they are currently under audit to ensure that funds are being used as they should be. In fact, she said, they have taken funding back from organisations that did not deliver on training criteria.

“We are serious about funding the correct initiatives to ensure that training and development happens effectively, and we applaud initiatives like this. It is encouraging to see that the flooring industry is really setting an example of training within the industry,” she said.

Martin said CETA welcomes these training school initiatives within companies aimed at reaching goals of upliftment and education, and interested parties should know that the terms for companies to get funding for these initiatives is available on their website

“We are keen to fund more training, and will continue to monitor these programmes,” she concluded.

After the speeches everyone went to the new training room where Sonja and Frank cut the red ribbon with all the students present, dressed in their special uniforms (overalls branded with Sparrow and Belgotex logos). All stood proud to be part of this exciting project.