A passion for training future installers ensures a sustainable floorcovering industry.
The Belgotex Academy covers basic and advanced installation training, technical sales training and estimating training across the various product categories offered by Belgotex Floors. The Academy, which started in 1999, was born out of a need for installing a revolutionary new, more affordable product launched by Belgotex.
“Back then, fitters struggled to install Matador, which motivated us to put a workshop together in order to teach them the necessary installation skills with the aim of successfully positioning Matador in the market,” explains Allan de Wit, Technical Support Manager of the Belgotex Academy. “A year later, Matador was the second biggest selling product in its category for the targeted market. Through this process we were able to develop and refine our expertise in order to offer training support in different sectors to industry.”
When the academy started, it focused on basic carpet installation training and was called the Carpet Pro Academy. In 2003, the academy evolved to include an advanced carpet installation programme focussing on patterned tufted products, needlepunch carpeting, tiles etc. “The workshop once again enabled us to train fitters to successfully install patterned tufted products etc., which they initially found a challenge,” says Allan. “However, the training reaped great rewards, as the installation of both Matador and Patterned products’ complaint ratio went from 100% to zero!”
In 2007, Belgotex introduced a Technical Sales Programme to the Academy. “Selling a product today is more technical than several years ago,” Allan continues. “People do product research online and by the time they come to you, they have a significant amount of knowledge. By then they have most likely also researched what your competition has to offer. When they come to you, you need to ensure that you know everything about your products’ performance classifications and technical details pertaining to installation. Simply put, the sales person has to be well rounded.”
He goes on to say that the sales person will also have to estimate and plan the installation as well. Consequently, sales are more closely aligned with all other related aspects, which is why product knowledge is critical. “Sales people need to realise that when they sell a product, it isn’t just about performance grading, they need to take into consideration the application requirements, too,” says Allan. “They must be able to measure, estimate and plan all details and aspects involved from the start of the sale till the successful installation of the material with follow up there after.”
In 2008, Belgotex added a laminate technical sales and installation programme as well as a measuring and estimating programme. In the same year, the training programme’s name changed from Carpet Pro to Belgotex Academy. During the course of 2012, a Homogeneous/Heterogeneous Vinyl Technical Sales & Installation programme was introduced and in 2013, a Luxury Vinyl Tile programme. Since then, Cushion Vinyl and Vinyl Composite Tile installations have been added to the Luxury Vinyl training programme.
Allan takes great pride in the fact that the academy has evolved and developed to where it is today and states that it has made an 80% difference in the industry – an astronomical figure, which almost begs the question, what would the state of affairs be had the time and resources not been invested in training future installers in the country.
Moving beyond the borders of trade
In 2008, Belgotex Academy took their training even further to infiltrate untapped areas of need and create larger scopes of future employment by introducing an informal carpet installation programme at Van Kervel School in George specifically for students with learning disabilities. “This informal training continued until last year and it has been very successful,” enthuses Allan. “In this particular school, there are several students from surrounding areas such as Knysna, Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn, simply because it is a boarding school. This meant we could get the students involved in the programmes, and when they leave school, they would go back to their home towns and gain employment as a result of their training.”
According to Johan Barnard, a teacher at Van Kervel in George, the uptake of these students into the industry after they leave school is testimony to the success of the Academy. “Since the training started, we have placed at least 40% of students into employment positions each year. Last year, we placed all six of our students!” says Allan. “I have to give acknowledgement to Belgotex Academy who have supported us every step of the way and ensured we were never short of anything, be it stationery, material etc. I am proud of our students and what they have achieved, knowing once they complete their training, they know what it takes to achieve your goals. This wouldn’t have been possible without Belgotex Academy!”
In 2013, De Grendal School in Cape Town was added and in 2014, Randeor school in Johannesburg. All these schools have been providing installation training for the NQF1 qualification for floorcoverings on an informal basis. As from 2016 all of the schools will provide the NQF 1 qualification to their students on the installation floorcoverings with the aim of completing the program and qualifying once these students have completed their schooling, they will complete their practical training by working in the installation fraternity and qualify via the CETA RPL process within three months from leaving school.
In order to be considered for the NQF 1 qualification, the schools will keep a logbook of the student’s participation as they need to commit to 1 200 hours of training hours and acquire 120 credits. The students can’t be registered at SETA as they are still at school, however, once they complete school, the student can be assessed and Belgotex Academy can register them at SETA. SETA will select a service provider to carry out an assessment of the student’s skills. The student is then able to receive a part qualification, after which the student can be placed in industry to complete the next two to three months of practical experience. After this, the student can qualify as a learner on NQF level 1.”
As Belgotex Floors wanted to obtain recognition for their carpet installation programme when they launched the academy, they were referred to CETA and as a result an NQF 1 & 2 qualification was developed for the installation of floorcoverings with other players in the floorcovering industry.
“The newest acquisition this year is Daeraad school in Wolmeranstad,”
Explaining what makes this training programme so unique and sought after, Allan highlights that it affords these learners employment opportunities, which is important seeing as there is a shortfall of installers in the industry. “You empower these students and in turn they are able to service the industry,” he states. “In fact, the demand for these students after leaving school and having acquired this training is truly impressive.”
Gaining formal accreditation
Belgotex Academy partnered with Sparrows FET College in Johannesburg in 2011 and together aligned learning material to the National Qualification for installation of floorcoverings at NQF level 1, which led to Sparrow FET College formally acquiring programme approval to teach the qualification.
Over the past three years, Belgotex Academy registered and sponsored 90 students with the Construction SETA into the NQF 1 programme. The students complete part of their training at Sparrow FET College, upon which they are introduced into the real world of work through the floorcovering/carpet installation fraternity, which will enable the learners to obtain practical training and hands-on expertise. According to Allan, they plan to spread the programme out in 2016 to Cape Town and Durban as it was previously only presented in Johannesburg.
“In addition, Belgotex Floors is also involved with FITA to help develop and uplift the industry,” he emphasises.
Industry, take note
Allan stresses the importance of contractors spending time with their installers and he considers it worrisome that this is not the case. “Contractors aren’t spending the necessary time or allocated resources to support their installers,” he adds. “The sustainability of the industry depends on the skills of installers. The manufacturer can develop the best possible product, the sales person can make the best sale, but if you don’t have an installer who can do a proper installation, then many business models will fail. Negativity in the industry can be attributed to a lack of professionalism in this regard.”
Allan emphasises how installers today are expected to be multi-skilled seeing as they have to be able to install carpets, vinyl, rubber, grass etc. There is therefore a big expectation on installers to be able to perform to very high standards. “To ensure the sustainability of our industry, the best advice I can give all in the flooring industry is to develop people, as they are the success plan of the future,” Allan says.
For those in the trade who are interested in receiving training from the Academy, Allan advises them to get in touch with Belgotex representatives. “I often approach our sales representatives and ask them what the needs of their customers are,” he says. “We then send out a workshop invite to industry, which is usually extended to our direct clients and wholesalers.”
On attendance of the workshops, each trainee will also receive a comprehensive manual detailing everything they need to know about installing the various types of floorcoverings. “If you read and follow everything within these training manuals, you can rest assured that you will be able to successfully install a floor to industry standards,” concludes Allan.
For more information contact Allan on 082 561 6072 or firstname.lastname@example.org | www.belgotexfloors.co.za