“The high costs of tertiary education, together with limited places at institutions of higher education, has meant that many school leavers have fewer options to acquire the skills required for employment beyond that of a menial level,” says Tony Keal, Group Skills Facilitator at the Master Builders Association of the Western Cape (MBAWC) - a registered trade association for employers in the building industry.
To this end, the MBAWC is offering people in the Western Cape the opportunity not only to attain a nationally recognised qualification for free, but to also gain employment and earn while they learn.
One of the ways in which the organisation is doing so is by providing those who have passed grade 12, with maths as a subject, the chance to obtain a Certificate in Construction Supervision. The opportunity is also open to those who have not achieved this academic level but who undergo psychometric tests that prove their suitability for the course. This four-year course, approved by South African Qualifications Authority, will result in a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level IV qualification (equivalent to a diploma from a technikon).
During the initial three months of their first year, students are exposed to all of the facets of the building industry including carpentry, plumbing, plastering as well as Health and Safety. They are given practical experience through being employed at MBAWC member companies for the next nine months. Over the following three years, they undergo two months of theoretical training at a technical institution and are employed by different member companies each year. At the end of the fourth year, if they have completed all of their modules and projects, they receive their certificate and can become construction foremen or further their studies in order to progress up the career ladder. Throughout the four years, the students receive a monthly stipend.
“Generally we enable one group of 10 people to undertake the course each year, but because it has been so successful, we are making it available to a second group this year,” says Keal.
Recognising that Health and Safety is a key requirement in the sector, the MBAWC is, for the first time, offering a SAQA approved Certificate in Construction Health and Safety. Entry into this two-year long programme requires a grade 12, preferably with maths. The first part of the programme is an introduction to the building industry including all trades, excavation and electrical as well as two months of theoretical training at a technical institution. Following this, they will be placed with MBAWC members to carry out their practical training. After their first year, the students return to the technical institution for another two months of theory and then return to their employers. In their last four weeks they submit projects and undergo assessments. On completion of the programme, they receive an NQF Level III qualification, recognised by the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP). Students who pursue this certificate are also given a monthly stipend during their studies.
“There is a shortage of skilled foremen and artisans in both Cape Town and the entire country. These courses will go a long way to solving this,” says Keal. “What’s more, they will help open people’s eyes to the fact that a career in the building industry offers opportunities for growth and is potentially highly lucrative.”