Tjeka Training Matters’ Leadership Academy has helped to establish the benchmark in the training of construction leaders who are able to do the job right the first time.
Among the academy’s many milestone projects was its participation in a large training drive undertaken by Basil Read to reduce mistakes and improve productivity on the worksites of the four company divisions at the time. They included Mining, Building, Civils and Roads.
The programme helped establish very high standards in the training of foremen in the construction industry and is still being used by enterprising contractors.
Tjeka Training Matters’ Leadership Academy worked with Robert Grantham, Basil Read’s Group Training Manager, who managed Basil Read’s large-scale training programme for five years before retiring in 2014. By this time, he had successfully trained four groups of 16 competent foremen on the NQF4 Foreman Development programme for this leading contractor. This is in addition to the critical role that Grantham played in honing the skills of about 150 of the companies’ workers through short and focused courses. These included Shutter Hands Grades 1, 2 and 3, as well as Concrete Hands Grades 1, 2 and 3. Notably, during his career at Basil Read he also helped groom and coach many of the company’s bursary students who were studying to become Civil Engineers or Quantity Surveyors at various universities.
“We demonstrated that, if undertaken correctly, construction training can have a major positive impact on productivity. This is through a marked reduction in errors and the need to redo work on our projects due to uneducated decisions being made. The outcome of the large investment made into training was measured on a weekly basis by Basil Read’s top management. I am proud to say that based on the performance of our contracts, it was justified,” Grantham says.
In 2009, the experienced Senior Site Agent was approached by the then Chief Executive Officer, Marius Heyns, to assist in training highly competent construction foremen for the company. He was asked by the CEO to have a meeting with other training companies and Tjeka Training Matters to ascertain which of them would be able to give accredited and affordable training to the students. Tjeka Training Matters was highly successful in putting forward an affordable accredited training programme.
He credits Kobus Brummer, Head of the Leadership Academy, for showing him the ropes and nurturing his passion for construction training. It is a major achievement transferring 45 years of experience managing various small and large construction projects to students through mentoring and training so that they can be competent and successful in their careers.
In January 2010, Tjeka Leadership Academy and Grantham sent out flyers inviting unemployed indigenous South Africans in the Vereeniging/Meyerton area who had passed Grade 12 (Matric) with Maths & English to be trained in the construction industry as foremen under the three-year NQF4 Foreman Development Programme. While the idea was to have a class of 16 students, to their surprise, as many as 50 candidates arrived.
A total of 25 candidates were selected from this group based on their Literacy Education and Numeracy Lab tests. They were then sent to Dr Lynn Ribton-Turner for Neuroticism, Extraversion and Openness psychometric assessments to ascertain whether they had the necessary personality traits to succeed as construction foremen on Basil Read’s worksites. The assessment was based on input received from Grantham and Brummer to ensure that only the 20 strongest, as well as most hardworking, knowledgeable, conscientious and diplomatic individuals were chosen for further screening.
Grantham and a representative from Basil Read’s human resources team then conducted a one-on-one interview with the candidates. They asked very strategic questions to arrive at their final selection of suitable candidates for the foreman learnership. At the end of the testing and assessments, 16 candidates were enrolled on the NQF4 Foreman Development Programme.
Basil Read paid for all the training, accommodation, food, transport and each student received a monthly allowance.
The first group consisted of 10 black males, three black women and two white males. Their three months of theoretical training started with Tjeka Leadership Academy at the beginning of February 2010 and was completed at the end of May 2010.
As part of the learnership, they undertook their nine months of practical training on various Basil Read worksites. Importantly, Grantham wanted to ensure that the learners were exposed to projects undertaken by the various divisions of Basil Read. This would ensure that they could be deployed swiftly to various sites once they had completed their training to assist the company’s various project teams when required.
“While extremely time-consuming and onerous, this screening process ensured that we had selected the ‘cream of the crop’ for this programme. We knew that these individuals had the necessary traits and the determination to succeed in their training,” Grantham says.
The same exacting process was applied when he recruited the next two groups of unemployed individuals to complete the same learnership.
Comprising of eight white males, seven black males and an Indian male, the second group started its theoretical training at the beginning of June 2010 and completed the first year of theory at the end of September 2010.
The third group, including nine black males, four white males and three black women, started at the beginning of October 2010 and completed the first year of theoretical training in December 2010. Notably, a total of 48 unemployed individuals were trained on the NQF4 Foreman programme from February 2010 to the end of 2013.
Based on the success of these programmes, Basil Read extended the training intervention to include employed staff who also wanted to rise through the ranks and become leaders.
“We also applied the same methodical process to the nominated Basil Read staff to become Health and Safety Officers by completing their NQF3 learnership, Foreman Development by completing their NQF4 learnership and our Site Agents by completing the NQF5 National Diploma learnership at the Leadership Academy.”
“We sourced 48 site staff from various construction sites in our four divisions. A total of 16 students were selected to become Health and Safety Officers, 16 students to participate in the Foreman Development programme and 16 Site Agents to obtain their National Diploma in Management of Construction Processes. These ran concurrently with the other learnerships. I am proud to say that they were also a resounding success,” Grantham says.
He lauds Tjeka Leadership Academy’s thorough training and assessment cycle. This included the hands-on approach of the skilled and experienced facilitators. Brummer and Grantham personally visited the various Basil Read sites where the learners were completing their nine months practical training to assess their performance.
Tjeka Leadership Academy’s training and assessment cycle commences with the presentation of the unit standard outcome, or theory by a facilitator.
This is followed by a formative assessment which learners use to evaluate their understanding of the theory. A formative assessment comprises of group discussions, case studies, peer reviews and self-tests and, as a continuous process, it enables learners to advance their instruction and facilitators the opportunity to improve the training experience.
Facilitators review the learners’ understanding of the content and address any shortcomings immediately. The training cycle is then repeated for each remaining unit standard outcome.
Upon completion of the theory component of the training, learners are issued with
Site Workbooks (SWBs). Facilitators explain the requirements for the completion of practical tasks set out in the SWB workplace experiential learning to the learners.
Once they have completed this aspect of their training, they return to the Leadership Academy to submit their site workbooks (SWBs) and write their exams as part of a summative assessment. A summative assessment evaluates learner competence on completion of a unit standard against given assessment criteria and is based upon SWBs, site tasks and supporting evidence. This is in addition to the Construction Education Training Authority logbook, comprising exams and onsite verification, which includes assessment interviews and observation.
Grantham says that he decided to partner Tjeka Training Matters based on its long legacy specialising in construction training.
“Tjeka Training Matters are experts in their field. This is because they are also willing to listen and proactively respond to the requirements of contractors. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case with some training service providers – a situation that has exacerbated the skills shortage in the country. They are also open to suggestions to improve their service offering. This has ensured that it remains at the cutting edge of construction training. Moreover, they are professional in everything that they do at a time when the construction training industry has been flooded by fly-by-night operators,” Grantham says.
Based on his experiences working with Brummer, he also used Tjeka Training Matters to help develop the competencies of Basil Read’s workers. Training in the field of shutter hands and road patching through to plastering and carpentry was mainly undertaken via short courses at Tjeka Training Matters by Frans Toua at the state-of-the-art training centre in Randfontein. This in-house training intervention also greatly contributed towards improved performance on the company’s contracts. Tjeka Training Matters Randfontein also took on Basil Read’s three-year carpenter apprentices who were doing the NQF3 Construction Carpentry Apprenticeship. The group comprised of nine black males, two Indian males, one white male, two black females and 1 Indian female.
Brummer concludes that he is proud of the Leadership Academy’s long association with large and small contractors. “Tjeka Training Matters will continue to raise the benchmark in construction training, working with contractors to ensure that we are always able to cater to their exact needs.”