The flooring industry in South Africa must start investing in worker training, as government plans to make staff accreditation a compulsory requirement, says interior flooring supplier and installer Kevin Bates Albert Carpets (KBAC) CFO Neil Duncan.
He says government has recently been applying more pressure on flooring companies to adhere to the requirement to have most, if not all, their flooring installers undergo training to acquire certificates for the National Certificate in Construction: Installation of Floor Coverings National Qualification Framework Level 1 course, which was accredited in 2012 by the Construction Education and Training Authority (Ceta).
“It is highly probable that the training of staff will no longer be an option in future; accreditation could become a government requirement for labourers to work on certain building sites,” he says.
Duncan also maintains that flooring manufacturers will be compelled to have their products installed by suitably qualified and accredited installers. “Discussions are taking place within several professional bodies, including construction industry training association Master Builders Association North, to establish a national register of qualified artisans working in the building industry.”
He adds that accredited members of the Flooring Industry Training Association (Fita) should fulfil any competency requirements that might be introduced in future.
Duncan, who is also a Fita director, says flooring-sector members can no longer rely only on government or external funding for training, and that training and accreditation are the responsibilities of all stakeholders in the flooring sector, though this need not be too costly if properly structured.
There is an urgent need for skills training in the flooring industry, which also has to deal with an ageing workforce, he notes. In addition, the industry needs to convince young people to consider careers in the flooring sector.
To boost skills levels, Fita is prepared to assist companies wanting to participate in training initiatives and to advise on tax and other financial incentives available in this regard, says Duncan.
Meanwhile, KBAC and carpet manufacturer Belgotex were the first two flooring-industry companies to initiate a formal Ceta-accredited training programme last year, which attracted Ceta project funding and initiated the formation of Fita.
“Fifty young students started a 12-month flooring learnership at Sparrow Combined FET College in Sophiatown, Johannesburg, in January 2014. They are gaining valuable practical experience at participating contractors in Gauteng and, by the end of this year, there will be more than 100 installers in the province who will have successfully completed the learnership,” says Duncan.
He says Fita aims to not only extend the qualification to other parts of the country but also to recognise and accredit existing installers using the recognition of prior learning process, as they have gained the relevant practical experience over several years.
“If we can register and accredit existing experienced installers, as well as provide training for and enable new young people to enter the industry, we will ensure the sustainability of the flooring sector and provide job opportunities that are badly needed in South Africa,” concludes Duncan.