MBSA survey shows danger of poor supervision on building sites

09 July 2014

“South Africa should not be surprised if more structures collapse, and more people are killed or injured in the process,” MBSA warns.

The South African building industry regards the lack of supervisory skills on building sites as the most critical – and potentially disastrous – facet of the increasing skills shortage in the construction sector, says Tumi Dlamini, Executive Director of Master Builders South Africa (MBSA).

Dlamini was announcing the results of a recent Skills Needs Survey, undertaken by MBSA, which showed that 41% of the MBSA members nationwide who responded to the survey regarded the shortage of skilled construction foremen as “most critical” in all worker categories covered.

“Expect more building disasters if training is not stepped up,” she has warned.

“Based on this alarming feedback which, in effect, means that many building contractors are undertaking building operations without skilled supervision on site, South Africa should not be surprised if more structures collapse, and more people are killed or injured in the process,” Dlamini warned. “The increasingly regular media reports about such disastrous building collapses merely endorse our members’ apprehension.”

Supporting the survey’s finding about the shortage of skilled foremen, also high on the list of categories where more training was seen as essential was ‘Generic Construction’, in other words multi-skilled staff. Formally-trained tilers, glazers, plasterers, plumbers, welders, and shopfitters, to name but a few categories, were also in short supply.

Dlamini said the respondents felt that the most critical artisan trade was carpentry, followed by bricklaying, painting/decorating, and then plumbing and joinery (wood machinist) at the same level.

“The survey also showed the low level of support for formal training among employers. Only about 11% of the respondents were involved in any form of accredited or formal training of staff, with close to two-thirds opting for in-house training. Most of the employers regarded the current state of formal accredited artisan training as ‘poor’ while a large percentage of those who were involved in formal training did so to boost their BBBEE status or benefit from tax incentives, coupled with increased productivity,” she explained.

Some of the main reasons given for not sending staff for accredited training included:

Once qualified, the staff tended to seek work elsewhere; Formal training was too expensive; and The formal training environment was too complicated.

“Access to funding, quality of the training providers, the administration process regarded as intricate, and a shortage of time for training, were seen as the major obstacles hampering formal accredited artisan training in the building industry.”

An overwhelming 80%-plus of the respondents said they would support the establishment of a national training register of qualified artisans for the building industry.

“The results of the survey are alarming – but not surprising. They simply echo the long-standing MBSA plea for increased and improved training facilities, driven by government. In this respect, it is encouraging to note that this year’s State of the Nation address by President Zuma pledged the establishment of 12 new training and vocational education colleges to expand the technical skills mix in South Africa. We eagerly await more details about these colleges, when they are likely to open, and to what extent they would help the ailing building industry,” Dlamini added.

By: Jan De Beer

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