Plumbing sector reinvents itself with apprenticeships

Through Tamara Mafilika Time of published article29m ago

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THE plumbing industry is being transformed through collaboration between Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, employers, educators and the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (Iopsa).

They have created two groundbreaking formal apprenticeships that inspire budding young people to gain professional qualifications and unlock new job opportunities. Meanwhile, the quality of plumbing in South Africa is improving, creating a multiplier effect that increases revenues for plumbers and achieves significant industry growth.

When an industry self-organizes into an engine of inclusive growth, it can focus on the mutual interests of all stakeholders, including industry associations, employers and educators. Working together, they can identify the needs of the industry, create jobs and fill those jobs with young people who would otherwise not have access to the economy.

“Sanitary offers great opportunities. It is on the national list of occupations in high demand by 2020 and is part of the government’s target to have 30,000 skilled craftsmen annually to execute strategic infrastructure projects and Covid recovery plans,” said Brendan Reynolds, executive director of Iopsa.

“If we can change employers’ perceptions of apprentices, we will see significant growth in apprenticeships and new employment opportunities to meet the government’s target.”

Both programs begin with candidate search and match by Harambee through the platform, based on the attitudes and skills most valued by successful plumbers. According to Reynolds, many young people randomly choose a trading job because they provide a faster way to earn a stipend. However, if a young person is not fit for the job, they will not succeed, no matter how desperate they are to make a living.

The two formal apprenticeships offer different pathways to work. The first is a three-year program from BluLever Education that results in qualified plumbers who are Red Seal certified and able to work independently.

The second internship is a new National Business Initiative (NBI) one-year program that results in apprentices known as Plumbing Hands working with qualified plumbers to learn critical roles in offices, hotels, or any building with plumbing where little things often go wrong, such as leaking toilets or dripping taps.

Pupils spend 13 weeks in the classroom where the curriculum includes an intensive focus on sanitation skills, supported by an effective work readiness program developed by Harambee that teaches behavior and socialization for work.

In addition, the Allan Gray Makers program introduces the opportunities and possibilities for business ownership and entrepreneurship. This is followed by six to nine months of structured on-the-job learning under the supervision of a qualified, experienced plumber.

Classrooms are hosted by selected TVET colleges. Due to the industry-wide approach and the involvement of NBI, Iopsa and Harambee, this program has delivered TVETs a much higher success rate of 86% more than before. Most importantly, it has enabled TVETs to shift their mindset towards a more employment-oriented program that closes the gap between theory and application in the workplace. It is an important collaboration because it offers the possibility to scale training.

Kaela Wilson, marketing director for Women in Plumbing, says: “Women have an eye for detail and patience for challenging situations. They also communicate better with customers and are perceived as less threatening.”

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