The industry, with an estimated annual value of $878 million, is concerned the huge investments in research and development by paint manufacturers could be going to waste should the products resulting from these investments continue being given to unskilled manpower as it leads to poor workmanship.
“More than 250 manufacturers in the coatings industry have limited access to paint chemists unlike large manufacturers in South Africa,” said Deryck Spence, the executive director of South Africa Paint Manufacturers Association (Sapma).
He said the Association, which also has nearly 700 retail outlet members, has “documented cases of qualified paint chemists being imported from other countries because of the shortage of skills in South Africa.”
The poaching of paint chemists and continuous training of fresh learners is a major problem to the industry that is estimated to support a value chain worth $1.2 billion in South Africa, according to Spence. He said this problem needs fixing through industry partnerships with government and South Africa’s well-resourced large manufacturers. The country’s top manufacturers include Becker Industrial, ICI Dulux (a subsidiary of AkzoNobel trading locally as Dulux) and Jotun Paints SA.
Sapma, Spence previously told Coatings World during this year’s South African Coatings Congress in Johannesburg, is investing its resources in being a training provider for the industry.
“Nobody is providing the training that our industry requires,” he said, adding that the colleges in South Africa stopped offering diploma and certificate courses in paint technology in 1986.
“Sapma through its training arm, the South Africa Paint Industry Training Institute (Sapiti), will provide the much-needed training as part of part of our mandate to the members of our association,” he added.
To spearhead efforts to reduce the huge gaps in skilled manpower for the coatings industry, the manufacturers in South Africa have teamed up with Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth to develop and offer short and more focused courses and also create a database of those already qualified through such training initiatives for the industry to pick from whenever there is a need.
“There are no paint applicators that have been trained since the closure of the Building Industries Federation South Africa centers 20 years ago,” said Spence.
“It is a situation where our members spend millions every year on product research and development to produce the best, most durable world-class paint possible and then we hand it to a non-qualified applicator with no training, to apply it,” he said.
Reports by Sapma and coatings market analysts indicate that more than 86 of all paint failures arise from inadequate substrate preparation.
“Unfortunately, it is the manufacturer who pays for the mishaps or non-conformance but we need to be innovative in addressing these shortcomings,”
Going forward, Sapma is pushing for the training of those who have been trained to work in the coatings industry but are still unemployed “so that they can enter an established industry to gain work experience and full-time employment and thereby fill the lack of skills in that sector.”
“Sapma is having discussions with the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) and we have committed to training as many unemployed workers as we can, as applicators and create, in conjunction with the Authority, a skills bank of skilled and certificated applicators for Sapma members to draw from at no cost to the contractor,” said Spence. Chieta is a statutory body established by the Skills Development Act (1998) to facilitate skills development in the chemical industries sector and ensure that skills needs are identified and addressed.
“This is the best way to provide meaningful training to the unemployed as well as giving them the opportunity of gaining work experience, as well as full-time employment in our industry,” he said.
Spence said when the skills bank is up and running “contractors who have in the past, been reluctant to train their staff for one reason or another, have the opportunity of up-skilling their workforce through the auspices of the skills bank.”
“The contractors I have consulted, are enthusiastically committed to use the system, and are now prepared to take it further, in that they want Sapma and Chieta to provide Recognition of Prior Learning training for their existing unskilled applicators because they want to be able to offer a skills passport to their clients that their applicators are competent and skilled,” added Spence.
Sapma has previously expressed concern at the restructuring of South Africa’s Skills Development Levy (SDL) that had been introduced to train employees of the business sector with a focus on upgrading of the skill of employees by way of recognized competences.
“The offshoot was obviously the improved productivity potential within the sector,” said Spence.
Although the initiative was initially more of a relationship between labor and the business sectors, it did not last for long after the government through the Department of Higher Education Training (Dhet) took over the managing of the levy and the allocation of funds collected.
After the Dhet took over the management of the funds, the Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) were allocated the cash for distribution to the various business sectors for the training of primarily employed staff, for specific and prescribed Seta accredited training programmes.
“Unfortunately the original agreement or principle, for the training of employees was also usurped or commandeered, by the need to find finances to fund other politically expedient issues, such as the call for free tertiary education and the allocation to the various Setas and subsequently business sectors, were cut in favor of the now ravenous national skills fund,” explained Spence.
“The ever-increasing unemployment rate has exacerbated the problem even further since the Dhet has again, to the detriment of the much-needed skills training of employees, has changed its emphasis to further promote the training of the unemployed as opposed to employed,” said Sapma executive.
Although Spence said the coatings industry agrees in principle to Dhet’s system “the concern for us is that we should not train just for the sake
The concerns by Sapma come at a time when a debate is going in South Africa and the continent in general on how long the coatings industry should take to achieve automation of their operations for efficiency and optimization of their investments.