For years, South Africa’s public and private sectors have talked about transformation as the key to unlocking economic growth and job creation. Yet in Q4 of 2021, national unemployment rose to 35.4%, with youth unemployment remaining at a dangerously high level of 66.5%.
Aubrey Tshalata, National President of the National Federation for the Building Industry (NAFBI) says the days of rhetoric must stop. Unless South Africans act now, he believes the end result of this gross unemployment will be a revolution of a very different nature, with last year’s looting in Kwa-Zulu Natal serving as an ominous taste of things to come.
“Within the construction industry, tangible transformation occurs by allowing new entrants to participate in mainstream construction,” he says. By new entrants, he means black businesses, and women – not just at board and management level, but on the ground, engaged at a local and regional project level.
Measures to expedite job creation and economic stability are at the heart of the discussion at this year’s Stakeholder’s Engagement Forum, being held in partnership with NAFBI at the Big 5 Construct trade show on 7 June 2022 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg. The Forum will be initiated by Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Head of the Presidency’s Infrastructure and Investment Office.
“We are looking forward to bringing together like-minded private and public stakeholders, not only to talk about the urgency of job creation, but to detail a roadmap as to how these jobs will be created, with an end goal of striking up partnerships to tackle growth and the competitiveness of small to medium enterprises in the built environment,” says Tshalata.
Lindiwe Nkosi, Programme Director at dmg events who is hosting the Big 5 Construct event, agrees that people who can afford to loiter, are the same people who can afford to loot. However, she believes that once people understand what opportunities are available to them and how to access them, this will no longer be such a grave problem.
“The construction sector is well positioned as a catalyst for job creation,” she claims. “As one of the only sectors that welcomes job seekers across the spectrum of skills and expertise – whether you have a Grade 8 or matriculation pass or Business Science degree – as long as you can hold a pick or shovel and are willing to be upskilled, there is an opportunity for employment and to build a long-term career.”
Roy Mnisi, Executive Director at leading industry body Master Builders Association South Africa says that for many years, the construction industry has been at the forefront of creating employment in South Africa and across the globe, particularly for youth.
“The current state of the country’s aging public infrastructure, as well as that which was damaged in last year’s riots and by the recent floods, gives rise to a good opportunity that will benefit our unemployed youth.”
However, he warns that in order to successfully implement new projects to develop infrastructure, which will result in creating jobs for many of the country’s idle youth, a strong partnership between government and the construction sector is required.
A key feature of the Big 5 Construct 2022 is the Talk Series of 25 free workshops on the exhibition floor, including key educational content and CPD accredited sessions that support career progression and advancement within Southern Africa’s construction industry.
The Talk Series workshops are open to anyone to attend and are aimed at offering young people a chance to learn new skills, as well as network with the industry’s leading decision makers, while gaining valuable exposure to the current opportunities within the SADC region. They cover a range of subjects, such as green construction, management software, architecture and concrete design.
“For the very first time post-pandemic, we are giving people the opportunity to decide whether they want to be part of South Africa’s unemployment statistic, or whether they are prepared to join the movement for change and build on the foundations for future economic growth and stability,” says Nkosi.
“There is a great need not just from us, but from the carriers of this knowledge and expertise, an older cohort of engineers and tradespeople from within our industry who are eager to pass on the baton to the next generation.”
The Big 5 Construct Southern Africa allows the industry to come together under one roof and a number of industry events will take alongside dmg’s event including The African Smart Cities Summit, Totally Concrete Expo and NAFBI’s Annual Conference.
Registration for the Big 5 Construct Southern Africa event is currently open; for more information and to register, please visit: www.thebig5constructsouthernafrica.com
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