In a sector hit hard by job losses and a general lack of work, initiatives in the construction industry designed to support the growth, and survival, of emerging contractors, should attract greater public attention and draw the support from established companies in the construction industry, Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) CEO Cyril Vuyani Gamede says.
He notes that the best way for the government to stimulate the economy, thus ensuring its quick recovery, is by developing and executing an infrastructure-led economic recovery plan, and subsequently, job creation in this sector will be a vital indicator of the success of South Africa’s economic recovery plan.
“It is, indeed, possible to achieve the objectives of job creation, empowerment and skills transfers through far-sighted partnerships between the public and private sectors and a collective commitment to transform the construction industry.”
In this regard, Gamede points out that a working partnership is already operational and achieving results.
In 2019, the CIDB signed an agreement with the Jobs Fund and black-owned infrastructure company Concor, to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and individuals who seek to gain a foothold in the sector.
“The aim of the tripartite initiative by the CIDB, the Jobs Fund and Concor is to develop 195 SMEs, create 1 950 new permanent jobs and train 2 050 beneficiaries over a three-year period.”
The CIDB is a natural participant in this project because of its pivotal role in the construction industry and its proven record in supporting emerging businesses navigate regulation and with access to opportunities.
Concor, part of the Southern Palace Group, acts as the implementing agent to identify emerging enterprises that are well-placed to benefit from the initiative, to assist with training and mentoring and to monitor their progress.
As such, it is envisioned that jobs will be created across the spectrum of construction activities – in plumbing, in building, in engineering, quantity surveying and project management.
The participants in the initial stage of the partnership are primarily from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, with some experience in civil contracting for the building of schools, residential and commercial developments.
The project includes a thorough analysis of their business skills to identify areas of strength, but also the extent of the need for organisational reconfiguration, empowerment and skills development for employees.
“It was quite clear from the outset that the biggest impediments to the growth of aspiring small ventures was access to capital and market opportunities as well as a lack of technical skills,” says Gamede.
To overcome this, he says the initiative focused on technical skills which will lead to improvements in the CIDB gradings of participants.
“This will, in turn, enable them to participate in larger projects in the future. The aim is to mature small businesses into well-established companies that can operate and thrive in the mainstream economy.”
In terms of progress with the initiative, he points out that most of the initial targets have already been exceeded, with Concor reporting that it accepted nine SMEs in the first six months of the programme and was on track to exceed the objective to create 40 jobs and train a further 40 beneficiaries.
“This is a three-year programme which will gather momentum as it reaches maturity and garners the support from the broader industry,” says Gamede.
However, he also cautions that Covid-19 may slow down this momentum over the short term. “But the national focus on infrastructure and construction as the driver of the post-pandemic recovery will ensure this initiative will survive and thrive.”