Addressing the skills drain in flooring

by Madelein
Addressing the skills drain in flooring

In this issue, Tandy Coleman, CEO of Polyflor SA discusses the skills drain in the flooring industry, a topic that she is particularly passionate about and committed to change.

Skilled flooring installers are in short supply, not only in South Africa but throughout the world. Many of the truly skilled artisans are retiring and as there is not much being done to attract next generations into the industry or to consciously upskill those already in the industry, the craft is being lost which ultimately affects all stakeholders in the flooring industry.

So, how do we stop this skill drain? Whose responsibility is it? How do we attract new blood into the industry? How do we increase the skill level, ensuring that we have well trained and highly competent fitters in the industry?

Given our country’s staggering unemployment rate of 29%, our government is making an effort to promote job creation and skills development, even if it is sometimes has its challenges. Some manufacturers are offering training even though sometimes restricted by funds, time and facilities. Yet, why is this not solving our problem?

In 2013, FITA (Flooring Industry Training Association) was formed by a group of passionate people with a goal. A group who believed that if an industry united with a common purpose, they could achieve results no matter the hurdles. A group who believed in accountability and responsibility and to speak with an authentic voice to unite a divided industry.

FITA’s mandate was to facilitate the upskilling of existing fitters and to attract new talent to the industry. Stakeholders across all categories within the flooring industry were invited to join this industry body. With backing from CETA (Construction Education Training Authority), who have been very generous with funding, they should have been able to achieve great things.

So, why is FITA flailing? Let’s analyse the facts:

1. The NQF level 1 qualification that was available as a training module was very basic and dealt predominantly with carpeting and vinyl. FITA remedied this shortfall. They applied to CETA for funds to scope a new qualification and on receiving them, invited experts from all flooring categories to assist in the process. After much cajoling, they managed to scope qualifications from NQF level 2 to 4 in 13 different floor categories and submitted them for approval and registration. This took six to eight, 2-day sessions over the duration of a year. Did you lend your expertise to this process?

2. The qualification has been with the QCTO for about 18 months, despite FITA chasing the process. Approval is imminent and the next step is for the learning material to be written which will require further funding and expertise. However, membership has started to dwindle. A few fully committed members have remained whilst others have merely left or taken their own direction. Can you offer the expertise and time to this process?

3. It certainly seems that stakeholders are loathe to commit financially if they are not seeing any immediate value. This raises an interesting debate. Without the necessary skills in the industry, our businesses may all be in jeopardy. Is it not our obligation to stand together to remedy a very real problem? Should we not upskill individuals and create thriving communities and businesses? Is it not our obligation to drive good business practice for a better South Africa? Yes, FITA has a large fallout rate within the learnerships, but if five expert new fitters out of every 50 are provided, we as an industry are still winning, as well as making available the opportunity for good, long-term careers and a way to escape poverty and change lives. Are we feigning ignorance or apathy and waiting for someone else to take the lead? Are we seeing what transpires before committing? Are we committing only when BBBEE scoring is an issue or when we stand to gain without investing?

With passion and commitment, there is no question that FITA can solve a very real problem. Does it not make sense for all stakeholders to work together to make a difference? Is a whole not far greater than the sum of its parts? Is there not strength in unity?

Polyflor is standing by FITA and we are proud to state our commitment and involvement.
What about you?

Visit http://www.polyflor.co.za/, e-mail marketing@polyflor.co.za or call +27 (11) 609 3500 to speak to Blythe or Wendy.

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