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According to Stats SA, the construction industry in South Africa is firmly in recession, contracting for the fourth quarter in a row. However, there is cause for optimism with the Government’s economic stimulus plan reported to inject billions into infrastructure development. Should this come into play, there will be increased opportunities for local small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that will ultimately be supporting big business in managing the anticipated uptick.

“It is vital that we make sure our SMEs in the industry are primed, armed and ready to hit the ground running and we are already making inroads in this space,” says Anthony Keal, group skills facilitator at Master Builders Association Western Cape (MBAWC).

“In November 2018, we announced the launch of our Entrepreneurship for Contractors Development Programme, which is hosted in partnership with the University of the Western Cape’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Our goals were to equip established entrepreneurs operating in our sector with the skills they need to successfully run their own businesses and, this month, we’re celebrating the first of our course graduates.”

“Over the past six months, the programme has empowered entrepreneurs by upskilling their understanding in various key areas, including: running a small business, pricing and claims, human resources, health and safety, contractual and legal requirements in the workplace and running an efficient project.  These were examined through individual as well as group assignments and assessments.”

“These are skills usually learned over time, but which are vital to SME success in the construction industry. What we’re effectively offering delegates is an opportunity to leapfrog their business growth plans by quite a margin,” he says.

Keal points out that the feedback from entrepreneurs that attended the first six month course is testament to the importance of programmes like this.

Faith Mabena, Director of Nokhanya Services, says that the MBA Development Programme advanced her understanding and capabilities in the management of contracts and in health and safety. “The programme was detailed and informative,” she says. “I’ve left with a comprehensive understanding around the importance of contracts including the types of contracts used in construction (NEC, JBCC, FIDIC, etc.) and how to negotiate them effectively.

“I’m now better at project costing and management and have learned the importance of risk analysis when it comes to personal protection equipment and employees, their health and safety on site, and ensuring all of our employees go home safely at the end of the day.”

Another entrepreneur who feels he has benefitted from being a part of the first programme is Carlo Moosa, who inherited his love for construction from his father. “Through participating in the programme, I realised how little I actually understood when it came to running a business, most specifically regarding labour law.”

“All of the course elements were useful and in construction, education must be ongoing, but I could have used the skills I learned in labour law when managing internal disputes we have faced in the past,” he says. “I’d recommend that all small construction business owners participate in this programme – there are lessons here that would usually take us years to grasp.”

When asked for his thoughts on the construction industry and its relationship with entrepreneurs, Shukry Essa says: “The building industry, as I see it, has only one way to go and that’s up, but it is in access to programmes like this that the industry will be mended and restored to its former glory.”

The second programme kicks off in February 2020 with continued focus on empowering the construction industry through the development of SMEs and the MBAWC anticipates similar feedback from its next group of course participants.

Entrepreneurs who would like more information or to apply to attend the next programme are invited to visit https://www.mbawc.org.za/. 

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