A well-documented challenge facing the construction industry is the across the board skills shortage, which has the potential to seriously affect the sustainability of the sector. “Within construction people are our greatest assets and the Stefanutti Stocks group is driving various initiatives that address both numbers and quality of skilled individuals,” says Willie Meyburgh, CEO of Stefanutti Stocks.
Most recently, these initiatives include the procurement of two mobile operator training simulator sets by the Stefanutti Stocks Roads, Pipelines & Mining Services (RPM) business unit; and the launch of a Contractor Development Programme in partnership with the Limpopo provincial government.
On Friday 19 September Stefanutti Stocks RPM officially launched the Chloorkop-based training facility, which includes two mobile operator-training units that can travel to wherever training needs exist within South Africa and across the border. These R18-million simulator sets provide heavy plant operators with theory and simulator training – both from scratch or to re-assess or hone qualified operator skills. Nine different equipment simulator consoles have been purchased and each of these is an exact replica of the real machine. “This type of training has increased our employees’ efficiency and effectiveness as well as allowing trainees to make mistakes with no physical consequences – thus protecting both our people, and our plant assets,” says Meyburgh.
In August 2014, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in April 2014, the Limpopo Department of Public Works (LDPW) officially launched its Contractor Development Programme with its programme partner Stefanutti Stocks. The parties have undertaken to work together on the following infrastructure capacity building programmes for the Limpopo province:
- Graduate and Diploma Intern practical training;
- Trainee Artisan practical training; and
- Contractor Development.
The ten participants in the Contractor Development Programme are Limpopo-based contractors, with a Civil Engineering (CE) or General Building (GB) Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Grade 6 or 7, and underwent a rigorous selection process by the LDPW, Stefanutti Stocks and the CIDB. The successful contractors are:
|Company||Black Owned %||Black Women Owned %|
|Kazamula Civil Construction||100%||0%|
|Mashrik Social Development||100%||60%|
|Mmagongwana General Construction||100%||100%|
|Nakiseni Business Enterpise||100%||100%|
|Nare Molebowe General Enterprises||100%||100%|
|PA Letsaola Construction Enterprise||100%||100%|
|Xiluvelweni Trading Enterprise||100%||0%|
Stefanutti Stocks will provide these contractors with training on business management skills such as tendering, estimating, financial controls and contract management. They will be paired with an experienced industry professional including having access to Stefanutti Stocks’ foremen, site managers, engineers and other specialists to enable effective knowledge transfer.
“Our objective is through our training, supervision and mentorship to create a foundation that will ensure sustainability and hopefully allow them to grow into larger businesses whilst subscribing to the same values and standards as Stefanutti Stocks,” says Meyburgh. “Contractors that understand the need for safety, quality and performance, have the potential to work on large projects and for large clients and this is where we would like to take our developing contractors.”
The group’s enterprise development strategy is based on three levels of enterprise development with construction and supplier partners. These include the strategic partner model, the enterprise development model and the supplier development model.
In the Strategic Partner model high potential businesses are developed within a sustainable model that offers benefits to both parties. The primary aim is to provide a sustainable workflow through partnering with these businesses in joint ventures. Successful partnerships have already been forged with companies such as Axsys and Oro Projects. Axsys has grown from being a subcontractor to Stefanutit Stocks to being a partner in the joint venture with Stefanutti Stocks that secured a R760-million marine contract at Durban’s Maydon Wharf. Its vision is to attain a CIDB Grade 9 by 2015.
The Enterprise Development model is an incubator model that provides significant mentorship and development to emerging contractors, such as the ten participants in the LDPW Contractor Development Programme. The primary aim of this model is to find contractors to develop into Strategic Partners, however, as this requires a large amount of time and effort, the group’s capacity for strategic partnerships is limited to a relatively small number. An emerging contractor benefiting from this relationship and earmarked for strategic partnership with the Stefanutti Stocks Civils division is Mathomomayo Investments, who continues to impress the division with his entrepeneurial spirit, his professionalism, attention to detail and the quality and safety standards of his construction sites.
The Supplier Development model focuses on the development of companies that do not qualify for a CIDB grade but provide goods or services into the construction industry. Here Stefanutti Stocks seeks to provide opportunities for companies, such as Bella M Ready, ProcureHub, Illembe Concrete and Sibaya Asphalting, to enter into the project supply chain. Bella M, an SMME specialising in concrete-mixer truck supply has since its inception in 2006 grown its fleet to include 42 ready-mix concrete trucks, buses, bakkies and generators. Since 2008 it is also undertaking contacts for other South African construction companies.
“To succeed our focus must be on quality and sustainability, not quantity or mere lip service,” says Meyburgh. “The success of the relationships that are being forged and the growth in the capacity and capability of our enterprise development partners are self-evident. Some of our partners are even working on their succession planning and Bella M is already ‘paying it forward’ by implementing its own development strategy.”
A recent industry survey of 600 South African engineers, conducted by financial and health services provider PPS, found that only 58% of respondents believe that engineering degrees in SA offer sufficient training for students. In addition to capability there are concerns that, as experienced operational individuals are reaching retirement age, the influx of new capability is not keeping up with industry demand.
“It has also been said that the construction industry is not regarded as ‘sexy’ by young people – I may be biased, but the thrill of working as a team of people who are creating structures that will long outlive us, can’t be beaten,” says Meyburgh. “Part of the challenge to South African construction companies, engineering bodies and government is highlighting just how ‘sexy’ construction really is in order to attract suitable individuals to pursue careers in the built environment.”
In the last financial year Stefanutti Stocks supported 120 bursars, of whom 65% are from designated groups. The bursary programme brings young qualified engineers into the industry and once employed these graduates are then exposed to purpose-designed internal development within the workplace. These include Situational and Site Leadership Development programmes as well as structured mentoring programmes to ensure knowledge transfer from the senior employees to younger engineers and site agents.
“In order to keep the industry sustainable our skills development must extend to operational on-site employees,” continues Meyburgh, “and this includes our operators, our wage staff and sub-contractors.” A broad selection of task-specific training ranging from working at heights through to the correct and safe use of tools is offered.
In 2012 Stefanutti Stocks Civils, in partnership with the CIDB ran a highly successful internship pilot programme for Further Education & Training (FET) students studying towards Construction and Civil Engineering qualifications. The success of the pilot motivated the continuation of the programme and the selection process for the next intake of twenty interns is currently underway.
Socio Economic Development
Stefanutti Stocks focuses on socio economic development programmes that specifically address the academic challenges that may face individuals who want to work within the construction environment. “Our current education system, particularly in subjects such as mathematics and science, is not laying an adequate foundation for entry into our industry,” says Meyburgh.
Whilst mathematics and science are certainly the main theme in the socio economic development strategy, many of the Stefanutti Stocks divisions have also been involved in initiatives that have seen them address the educational environment – be it through revamping entire schools, supplying study materials or teacher training. Two initiatives that Stefanutti Stocks is involved with are addressing the educational challenges from different angles. These are Go For Gold (Cape Town and Gauteng-based) and the Jirah Academy in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Jirah Academy functions as a primary skills development facilitator (SDF). It is addressing the extreme shortage of highly–skilled, capable artisans by pitching education at the different learning types including those with learning barriers. “Individuals best suited to becoming artisans have been slipping through the cracks as they were unable to connect with further education and training as apprentices,” explains Meyburgh. “The Jirah Academy aims to bridge the gap between the chasm of knowledge learners leave school with, and what is required for them to successfully qualify in a trade.”
Stefanutti Stocks’ Marine and Civils divisions are involved with a unique public private partnership called Go for Gold. This initiative’s objective is to address the shortage of candidates from disadvantaged communities who have the necessary grounding in science and mathematics to enable entry into the built environment. The concept is based on sponsored training and guaranteed employment at the end of an integrated four-phase programme. Stefanutti Stocks currently has ten students at all levels of the programme including two bursary students who have completed their National Diplomas: Civil Engineering and are now permanently employed by the company.”
“The word ‘sustainable’ by its very definition means that ‘something’ should be maintained at a certain level,” says Meyburgh, “however there has been a gap in the provision and quality of training we need to bridge to achieve the desired level. I believe we have started to make a difference in sustainable ways and the group, its divisions and partners are determined to keep the wheels of growth and sustainability turning. We are all party to this circle of sustainability including government, who will need to roll out infrastructure spend and bring projects to market, to ensure that there is enough work available to develop and eventually sustain the increasing service supply in the construction.”