Developing the construction industry of tomorrow through education and training

In the wake of the devastating economic carnage wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic, construction developers and contractors have a golden opportunity to leave a positive, lasting legacy in the communities in which their projects are based by facilitating the creation of sustainable livelihoods among the local populations.

“An investment in the training and development of unemployed people in these communities goes a long way towards improving their quality of life over the long term, while simultaneously contributing towards the growth and quality of the construction industry,” says Databuild CEO Morag Evans.

She cites the inspirational successes achieved by Databuild partner Arc Skills, which is making significant inroads in tackling the critical skills shortages in the construction industry through its bespoke training and specialist skills development solutions.

The company recently partnered with real estate investor Actis to offer training to 300 young people selected from different community-based organisations in the informal settlement around the Garden City Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Of the 130 students who completed the training, 46% succeeded in securing employment after graduation.

Back on home soil, in a project sponsored by the Motheo Construction Group, Arc Skills trained 60 unemployed youth at three training sites in Gauteng. Following completion of the training, 13 of the learners used their newly acquired skills in bricklaying, plastering, painting, glazing and carpentry to start their own business together, establishing Simunye Trading Construction.

Arc Skills closely mentored the partners in their entrepreneurial journey, providing them with business coaching and support, as well as marketing and branding assistance. It wasn’t long before the start-up company was awarded its first contract by Mokgolokwane Civils to build 20 low-cost houses valued at R1 960 000.

Soon afterwards, the company was contracted by its original sponsor, Motheo, to build low-cost houses on its behalf.

“At the start of their journey with Arc Skills, these young people, all of whom are under the age of 35, had no previous construction experience,” says Arc SKills divisional manager Louwrens De Bruyn. “Today, Simunye Trading Construction is making a meaningful impact in their respective communities by helping to create numerous job opportunities for other unemployed youth.”

Timeous engagement

“Key to the success of any community upliftment training programme is the establishment of a mutually beneficial relationship between the project owners and local community stakeholders impacted by their projects,” De Bruyn continues.

“Our experience has shown that this is best achieved through proactive and transparent engagement with all the relevant role players, where the benefits of an investment in an internationally accredited training programme are clearly defined.

“By generating goodwill in the community from the outset, project delays and shutdowns caused by groups making unreasonable employment demands are far less likely to occur.”

Arc Skills conducts its training on site in portable classrooms which can be readily mobilised to different phases of the project. This low-cost model is highly replicable and scalable to accommodate varying class sizes, and enables students to gain essential hands-on work experience, which increases their prospects of obtaining more long-term employment.

For the project owner, the programme not only generates a pool of talent for future projects, but also enables the company to improve its B-BBEE scorecard and obtain substantial tax relief in the form of skills development rebates, which can be as much as R80 000 per learner.

Evans urges more players in the construction industry to invest in programmes such as those offered by Arc Skills. “No one can argue that enabling developers and contractors to complete their projects successfully while changing lives for the better plays a critical role in helping to alleviate South Africa’s unemployment crisis. Who wouldn’t want to invest in a win-win solution for all parties?”

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