South Africa has skills shortages in the built environment
Skills development remains a pressing concern in the current South African economy, and the built environment is no exception.
With an increasing number of small to medium-size enterprise’s (SMME’s) emerging in the construction sector, it becomes increasingly challenging for authorities to regulate the level of skills and training of the country’s construction workforce. Added to this is a lack of skills at management level – where a shortage of skilled project managers often has significant consequences for building projects.
Werner Franck, MD of Vertias, highlights the need for skilled employees at all levels of the sector’s workforce. “While management skills are an important area of focus, the industry needs to invest in the training from the bottom all the way to the top.” As he points out, increased safety and the mitigation of related risks is reliant on a well-educated and skilled workforce. Naturally, the quality of the company’s employees is also reflected in the quality of the services they provide.
This proves particularly challenging for SMME’s which compromise a significant part of the construction sector as a whole. “Skills development is integral to the sustainable growth and development of the SMME sector,” says Franck, “but the reality is that many of the smaller companies within the industry lack the required resources to provide employees with the development and training opportunities they need.”
Circumstances are rendered substantially more complicated by the fact that there is often a lack of continuity in employment in this part of the sector, meaning that employees simply don’t spend enough time with the company to receive appropriate training.
However, government is taking steps to improve skills training for blue collar workers through the National Skills Development Strategy, as well as the Register of Contractors which aims to regulate the tendering process and address human resource development in the industry.
At a more senior level, a lack of skilled project managers is often responsible for delays in the issuing of public tenders, as well as the delay and abandonment of commissioned projects. “Government has plans in place to improve its infrastructure together with the necessary funds to start these projects, however they lack the skills to implement them,” explains Franck. According to an infrastructure sector survey, South Africa is simply not training enough engineers, artisans and technicians to fill this gap.
“Most importantly, we need to see an increase in skilled project managers,” maintains Franck. “Quality project managers are essential to the company’s performance. Whether it be saving money, reducing risk or earning greater return on investment.”
The private sector has risen to the challenge, with organisations such as TWP Projects establishing planning schools to alleviate the shortage of skilled project managers in South Africa - an initiative that the industry hopes to see a more of.