How will the flooring industry get a boost in training and skills development? Keep reading…
A lot can change in a year, and to date, significant changes have emerged in terms of training and skills development within the flooring industry. Through The Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA), together with some passionate manufacturers and contractors, several developments have occurred, most notably the formation of FITA, the Flooring Industry Training Association. While several manufacturers have continued to move forward in terms of their training and skills development programmes, others need to progress in this area.
In 2013, CETA initiated the formation of an association that would represent the flooring industry, as it is a sub-sector of the construction industry. Sonja Pilusa, CEO of CETA, explains that they were acutely aware of the fact that that the flooring industry was taking training matters into their own hands, such as Kevin Bates Flooring and Belgotex Floorcoverings, who are providing official and certified training for the industry with their own funding.
“For this reason, we saw a need for CETA to come in and help drive the training within the flooring sector forward,” she says. CETA allocated R5-million towards training and a further R2-million for development. She goes onto say that CETA would ideally like to see FITA, with the support of industry, apply for accreditation so that it goes beyond just facilitating training and begins overseeing training in the industry as a provider. “FITA is a legal persona on its own, and through accreditation they can provide training themselves, which will in turn cut down on costs, it will become self-sustainable and be able to grow,” Sonja continues. “Last year we made this special allocation as CETA was not previously involved with the flooring industry. This year we will have a call for training projects proposals, for which FITA should apply and, based on a good proposal that FITA will hopefully submit, I can safely say that there should be no reason why they would not receive an allocation. We truly want to make sure that every sub-sector of the building industry is taken care of.”
Robert Thibela, Core Business Manager at CETA, adds that flooring is a key sub-sector of the industry and a skills crisis is looming as quality installation remains a problem in flooring. “Experienced installers are facing exit points in the industry and through skills development they can share their knowledge and fill the skills gap,” he continues. “However, systematic processes need to be implemented. From a research point of view, there is an industry concern regarding the shortage of skills. We need continuous consultations and discussions with the industry and need stakeholder engagement to discuss problems and to ensure the industry understands CETA’s vision.”
2014 will also see CETA going ahead with an exhibition in all nine provinces that they want the flooring industry to participate in. These will involve stands where contractors and manufacturers offer demonstrations, for example showcasing how to lay the different types of floors. FET colleges will host CETA and entities will still be appointed in each region. These dates will be announced in the near future. “This will be a skills drive – we want to entice learners to be interested in acquiring construction skills and we want companies to get involved and demonstrate their specific skills,” says Robert.
In 2013, FITA was formed with Neil Duncan from Kevin Bates Flooring, Tandy Coleman-Spolander from Polyflor and Rick Barrow from Turner Peirson as its Directors. The association came into being as a consequence of a funding offer from CETA for training. CETA requested to work with an association as opposed to an individual company. The decision to establish FITA was taken with the support and approval of a number of industry stakeholders’.
According to Neil, training in the flooring industry is not a new issue and has been under discussion for several years. “The stumbling block has always been funding,” he explains. “FITA is going to provide an official platform for accredited training and registration of installers in the country. We need to raise the entry level and give qualified installers credibility. It will be good for the industry (contractors, manufacturers and distributors) and good for the installers who will then be able to command a better income and make it an attractive occupation to pursue.”
In Tandy’s opinion, fitting skills in the industry are extremely poor, largely due to bad habits, shortcuts, inefficient tools and poor pay for subcontractors. “We need the buy-in from other flooring manufacturers and contractors to mentor the learners and to become members of FITA,” she highlights. “Through Tjeka Training Matters and Sparrow FET College as training providers the potential for success is massive; we just have to get the process going. This requires a two-part strategy, namely to qualify and register floor fitters through FITA, who are then members of FITA as individuals and not contracting companies. Secondly, we need to encourage contractors and manufacturers to support annual membership of FITA to assist with the upliftment and accreditation of qualified installers.”
Neil reiterates Tandy’s point of view by adding that the challenge is to get the support from the industry, particularly contractors. “Unless they get involved in ensuring their fitters and subcontractors are trained and accredited it will fail,” he adds. “They have to support it and they have to recognise the benefits to their businesses and the industry in the long term. Good installation by qualified installers equates to good business, it’s as simple as that. The value of a product being installed is 70-80% of the job; if it isn’t installed properly it is a major loss to a contractor.”
40 learners are enrolled through Sparrows Schools and in 12 months they will qualify as installers for absorption into the industry.
Tjeka Training Matters
Tjeka Training Matters is an organisation that focuses on training and entrepreneurial development in the building and civil engineering construction industries. It was established in March 2000 and offers training that is conducted in mobile units whereby accredited training is conducted on the project as well as in accredited training institutions in both the building and civil construction industries.
Working with Tjeka as its accredited training provider, Kevin Bates Flooring took it upon itself to proceed with formal training within the government learnership programme after an initial failed attempt by the flooring industry to acquire a formal training programme on a national basis. Its training programme through Tjeka has resulted in the training of all Johannesburg-based fitters, with 31 to date that have gone through the programme. CETA provides these learners with formal certification.
According to Neil, these 31 installers were the first accredited qualified fitters in the country. The first group qualified in 2011 and the second group in 2013 with the third Cape Town based group to commence training through FITA/CETA this year.
Frans Toua, CEO of Tjeka Training Matters offers his advice on lessons learnt from their training programme when formulating FITA’s training programme: “Before selecting unemployed learner candidates, it is advisable that they be employed first for two to three months before training commences so that they can be exposed to the realities of the industry and from that pool final learners should be selected. This will minimise learner dropouts. Learners shouldn’t just be placed; they need to be mentored too the old fashioned apprenticeship way.”
Sparrow Combined FET College was established in 2011 and offers numerous qualifications and skill programmes, such as floor laying with CETA and welding accredited by MERSETA, to name a few.
According to Melanie Malema at Sparrow Schools, Belgotex Floorcoverings’ initiative with them will see 21 learners completing their qualification at the end of February 2014. In terms of FITA’s training programme, Belgotex Floorcoverings’ programme will act as a pilot in the formation of FITA’s programme. From this Belgotex Floorcoverings’ programme, several lessons have been learnt that will benefit FITA’s programme significantly.
As Melanie explains, learners need to be selected more carefully, and installers need to get involved with these learners in the first six months. “You are not just taking on a learner, you are also taking on social issues,” she highlights. “Location of training plays a crucial role, as several of these learners who live in townships need to use public transport which has cost implications. So too, the shock of the reality of the industry causes learners to drop out of the programme as it is physically challenging.”
Rick Barrow from Turner Peirson adds, “For this reason they have to be exposed to the industry upfront – the reality of the job doesn’t sink in until they go on site. As an association, FITA will need to minimise dropouts.”
Allan de Wit, Technical Support Manager at Belgotex Floorcoverings, says that their training programme had nine fallouts to date. To analyse why, they visited the companies. “Contractors need to understand what these training programmes are about and those at the top need to get more involved when FITA’s learning programme is rolled out,” he explains. “The expectations of those contractors that took these learners on were not realistic. There needs to be a partnership between industry, businesses and the association, otherwise where else will they get their practical training? This training gives these unemployed learners a meal-ticket for life!”