On the 18th and 20th of October 2016, the Public Works’ Midlands Regional office embarked on an extensive contractor training workshop. The training sessions were held at the auditoriums of both the Regional and Umzinyathi District offices.
Mr Gcina Hadebe, the Regional Director, made all efforts possible to be present during both sessions, with an aim at ensuring leadership, commitment, dedication and compliance to assisting emerging contractors with a view at changing their lives in this gradually developing built industry for advancing economic transformation within the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
In his welcome addresses, Mr Hadebe reiterated that contractors must have a fair share of competitive bidding and that they get equal opportunities in respect of grade migration for their respective development. In addition, the training session is aimed at addressing crucial concerns that most contactors experience during their tenure in the built and construction industry. It is therefore unrealistic to assume that emerging contractors do have the necessary skills to execute their obligations responsibly.
Contractor training is multipronged lately. It places the responsibility and risk of project execution on the contractor who is assumed to have all the required technical, managerial and financial skills to accept this responsibility. It provides opportunities for skills transfer, meaning that a number of people employed as labourers may use such opportunity as a stepping stone to embark on a career in construction (charge hands, fore-man, artisan, etc.). Unfortunately, skills do not remain in the community and are thus not available for ongoing maintenance of the infrastructure. Since such training is labour intensive, it will divert a larger portion of the contract value to the lower income groups. It can therefore be specified that labour must be sourced from neighbouring communities in which case they directly benefit from the influx of the project budget.
In attendance were local government, contractor and stakeholder representatives from Master Builders Association, Newcastle Builders Suppliers, Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), KZN Treasury, KZN Department of Labour, Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and KZN Department of Health.
Public Works was fully represented through the Supply Chain Management (SCM) as it reflects the gateway and nucleus of contractor development and economic transformation for the province. In his presentation, Mr Pravesh Ballaram, the Director for Public Works’ Supply Chain Management directorate advised all attendees that as contractors, it is very important to ensure that they secure training towards financial management so as to alleviate any cancellation of projects and this bears a negative influence towards their entrepreneurial profiles.
During the ‘question-and-answer’ session, it was established that there are significant concerns from contractors which reflected issues such as late payment of completed projects after invoices have been timeously submitted; the inability for the Department of Public Works to advance contractors towards economic growth, especially when criteria is being allocated to specific contractor grades; that the department’s supply chain management policy does not correspond with that of the CIDB; skills transfer and training is limited to ensure labourers understand what is required of them (e.g. to dig a trench, etc.) and also higher skill levels are normally imported by the contractor from his permanent staff; it is unlikely that skill left behind by the contractor after project handover will be sufficient to maintain the infrastructure; a self- reflection by contractors in respect of non or poor attendance of the scheduled contractor training sessions – which bear a huge financial implication.
The most significant advantage of this approach is the fact that the Midlands contractor training workshop is breaking the barriers for contractor development. It is at this stage the only implementation model which has as an end result where people are capacitated to start their own construction businesses. It is in the true spirit of the contractor development and economic transformation. People are not trained to be labourers for contractors, but they actually have the opportunity to become small contractors.