Quality construction skills training provides hope for inner city’s unemployed

Outreach Foundation has already equipped more than 80 people, mainly unemployed women and youth who live in the Johannesburg inner-city, with the skills they need to secure employment in the building sector.

Based in Hillbrow, this non-profit organisation (NPO) empowers those in need by providing training and skills development, as well as social support and a safe haven.

The quality building training is being provided by Tjeka Training Matters. Tjeka Training Matters specialises in building and civil-engineering construction training. The registered private Technical and Vocational Education and Training college has built a solid rapport with many of the country’s leading and mid-tier contractors over the past 20 years as the first point of contact for their construction-related training.

Outreach Foundation’s three-week artisanal training has been designed to provide learners with the basic skills they need to enter the building job market. Once they have secured employment, they are then able to further develop their competence levels.

For example, Earl Dankers, part of group of 12 people who recently completed a plumbing course offered by Outreach Foundation, intends enrolling for a National Certificate in Plumbing, once he is employed and has raised enough money to fund his studies.

One of the most enterprising of the group of learners, he was first exposed to the plumbing trade via Outreach Foundation.

“The course was extremely interesting and the quality of training very high. I now want to learn so much more about the profession. Had it not been for this programme, I would never have considered pursuing it as a career,” Dankers says.

Recently retrenched, Dankers approached Outreach Foundation to assist him in acquiring the skills he needed to secure employment so that he could support his family.

Like all the other candidates who approach the NPO for help, Dankers underwent a thorough screening process to ensure that he had the aptitude to successfully complete the programme. He also had to display personal traits that are suited to a career in the building industry.

Those people who are selected to participate in the programme only pay a very small portion of the total value of the training, while the balance is funded by Outreach Foundation’s donors.

David Mathews, a qualified plumber, who is experienced in many trades, again conducted the plumbing training on behalf of Tjeka Training Matters for Outreach Foundation.

Mathews says that he is always very encouraged by the enthusiasm of the NPO’s learners.

“They have enquiring minds and want to learn as much as possible. I have taught them how to correctly install a geyser, bath, basin, and toilet, and am confident that, given the chance, they will succeed in building vibrant careers in the plumbing industry. It is always an absolute pleasure working with Outreach Foundation’s learners who have a positive mindset and want to better themselves,” Mathews, says.

As part of the programme, Tjeka Training Matters also recently trained 25 people in bricklaying and 12 in plastering.

Notably, all the participants successfully completed their training and received a certificate of competence. They then participated in an incubation programme by the Outreach Foundation to equip them with basic business knowledge.

In terms of placing the many people who pass through the skills-development programme with potential employers, the dire state of the economy, including the construction sector, remains a major challenge for the NPO.

This situation has been severely exacerbated by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and those efforts geared at containing the spread of the virus.

For example, the NPO has been overwhelmed by people in need of its help since the implementation of the hard lockdown that brought most industries to a standstill. This includes the building sector, which could only start operating with the gradual easing of the restrictions. Some building sites were only allowed to reopen during the Level 3 alert.

Many of these people are African migrants who came to South Africa to improve their lives but now live in extreme poverty as they do not qualify for government relief programmes, including food aid.

The organisation also continues to train many young people who are recovering from alcohol and substance abuse after they have completed their counselling.

Robert Michel, Executive Director of Outreach Foundation, attributes addiction and crime among the country’s youth to high levels of unemployment in the country, hence the intense focus on training and skills development by the NPO.

Michel is hopeful that government’s focus on large infrastructure development to stimulate economic recovery will help alleviate the situation.

“The training that we offer in the various building trades is of the highest quality. It is being undertaken by a Construction Education Training Authority-accredited training provider that is also affiliated with leading construction industry bodies. We guarantee that those people who have successfully completed our training programmes are competent. Their skills will be welcomed on most of the social infrastructure projects, including affordable housing, schools, as well as clinics and hospitals, that are being rolled out by government,” Michel says.

Frans Toua, Chief Executive Officer of Tjeka Training Matters, lauds Outreach Foundation for its efforts.

“We are proud to be associated with an organisation that continues to help so many people in need. Tjeka Training Matters has built a solid professional working relationship with the Outreach Foundation over many years, and we will continue to meet and even exceed the high targets it has established for this programme,” Toua concludes.