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KZN roofing company harnesses training to give back

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Since its humble beginnings in 2009, GWR Roofing, Pinetown-based roofing specialist in service of the commercial, residential and industrial markets, has had a markedly unique approach to employee engagement.

With an ethos underpinned by skill level, work ethic, accountability and relationship building, management at GWR Roofing have initiated an on-the-job mentorship programme to give high-potential roofing candidates a leg up into the industry.

According to Andrew Gove, Director at GWR Roofing, “In a field as specialised as roofing, our staff are our most valuable asset and it is a priority for us to develop, train and create opportunities for them to not only improve their lives and enrich the communities from which they hail, but to keep improving the quality of workmanship we offer our clients.”

“Limited avenues for training in the roofing and carpentry sectors in South Africa impact on the talent pool that feeds the roofing industry. As such, we took it upon ourselves to institute an in-house training programme to develop our own staff and extend training and mentorship opportunities to high-potential individuals from outside our business who are looking to build a career in the industry,” says Gove.

A hand up, not a handout

One such candidate is Sihle Dikaneng, a young man from Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, who was studying a diploma in engineering. With a firm interest in building a career in the roofing sector, he contacted the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), the professional body for the engineered timber construction industry, who put him in touch with GWR Roofing.

“Sihle has since joined one of our teams in a junior capacity, where he will receive training, learn the ropes in a very hands-on way and earn his way up the ranks in our team,” comments Gove.

“As part of this apprenticeship, theoretical content derived from Volume 1 and 2 of the ITC-SA’s Roof Erectors Handbook is taught, on-site training is conducted and the ITC-SA examinations must be successfully completed. The aim is to have Sihle running his own team on site, installing roofs and having them signed off by an ITC-SA Inspector,” he adds.

Read:Kenya moves to bridge construction skills gap

While Sihle is undergoing training in both theoretical and practical aspects of the roofing trade, he will also undergo in-house training in marketing as well as financial and operational basics in order to gain a fundamental understanding of how a business operates and how to manage an organisation successfully, benefitting from the same values that underpin GWR Roofing.

“I believe that through working for GWR Roofing and observing how we operate, we will instill a healthy level of pride in workmanship and, hand-in-hand with the trainee, foster a sense of achievement through hard work,” remarks Gove.

A boost for business, industry and the economy

Gove asserts that while mentorship certainly carries a measure of altruism, it also comes with many benefits to the host company, which extend to the wider industry as well. “Mentorship and training represent key social responsibilities for us as a South African company, but they also lend equity to the organisation and brand, and support our own marketing efforts; an automatic payback and investment for our business.”

“Mentorship serves as a dynamic community ‘payback’ that will foster goodwill as GWR Roofing releases reputable, skilled artisans and business owners back into the community. The expectation is that the employee will return to the business world and their community not only with an enhanced skill set, but with the mindset of paying it forward,” he adds.

While mentorship is not devoid of any challenges, like time, money, logistics and mentee commitment, the benefits of such programmes have far-reaching implications for the roofing industry as a whole.

“Mentorships can help improve the quality and skill level of people doing roof installations and will hopefully put an end to sub-standard workmanship and resultant wastage of resources,” Gove notes, adding, “By training individuals in the trade, we can also attract talent to the industry; that is people who have the aptitude to take their trade to the next level and become entrepreneurs.

Read opinion:Building the next generation through skills development

This will go a long way to boost standards in the industry, improve on the quality of workmanship, benefitting the whole value chain, from the truss manufacturers and erectors, to industry associations and, importantly, the consumer.”

“While there are many positives associated with private companies, like ours, engaging in mentorship programmes, a formalised apprenticeship programme, with proper engagement from the public sector, is what South Africa needs. There are so many people eager to work as roofers, but a very small minority with the necessary skills and training. On an economic level, a formalised programme could serve to regulate wages in the industry, boost job creation, create an optimal environment for more entrepreneurial activity and even secure sustainable funding for structured mentorships,” he says.

GWR Roofing is passionate about the way it operates and believes that if individuals can onboard values of responsibility and business ethos supported by strong relationships and excellent service, they cannot but thrive commercially and reputationally.

“It is possible for us to build an industry where individuals can work together as suppliers and service providers and still be competitive; when pricing is no longer the driving factor for winning business, the entire industry and workforce will make gains,” says Gove.

He concludes, “At GWR Roofing, we believe in building assets that last. By engaging with individuals like Sihle who show great promise, we are committed to building strong foundations in skills training and development for a more robust, well-equipped roofing sector with a sustainable future that holds commercial benefits for all.”

Gordon Gove, GWR Roofing Director, is a qualified training facilitator, assessor and moderator, having been closely involved with the preparation and presentation of South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) accredited financial training courses.

It is the company’s aim to develop and access accreditation for the Vocational Certificate, ‘Carpentry and Roof Work’ as laid out by the National Department of Higher Education and Training Courses at NQF levels 2, 3 and 4.

Individuals who wish to apply for GWR Roofing’s mentorship programme should hold a Grade 12 certificate, have a good level of English and ideally have graduated from a specialised roofing carpentry course or similar.

For more information, contact Andrew Gove on andrew@gwr-sa.co.za.

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