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South Africa construction industry faces skills shortage, says PPC

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South Africa construction is staring at a possible skills shortage and industry leader has cautioned.

Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) managing director Njombo Lekula says while the South Africa has highly skilled workers, the country was losing them to other countries.

Lekula also expressed concerns that young people were not studying construction. Lekula was speaking at a PPC roundtable on localisation on Wednesday where skills retention and transfer was discussed.

“A once very highly sought-out construction country is not going to have skills and it’s going to be a shame if, in 15 years’ time, we have to import the skills to actually build our own country,” he said.

He added that there needs to be a skills transfer from older, more experienced construction industry employees to younger people.

Skills retention and transfer are two of the many issues the industry is hoping its construction masterplan – that it has begun engaging the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (DTIC) on – will resolve.

Lekula added that the plan will also look at the inclusion of universities to ensure skills delivery and conduct research on how to unlock the industry.

The plan is similar to the automotive and poultry masterplans that are being implemented and will also look at resolving structural issues in the industry and other challenges like so-called “construction mafias” – where some construction sites in South Africa have been the target of gangs that demand a cut from companies and developers, or take over projects illegally.

Another important aspect about the plan is that it will clarify the role of small and medium enterprises in construction, he said.

While work on the masterplan continues, the construction industry is eagerly waiting for the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) to impose tariffs on cement imports from Vietnam.

The industry has been grappling with cheap imports that have flooded South Africa, which began rising between 2013 and 2015, undercutting local suppliers and raising concerns about the future of the country’s companies.

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