Over the last three years, State-owned power utility Eskom’s enterprise development programme, the Contractor Academy, trained 518 contractors from all nine provinces, with the youth accounting for about 60% of participants.
The programme started as a pilot programme in 2008 and has since grown significantly. To date, it has completed 73 academies and almost 1 000 contractors have been successfully trained.
The Contractor Academy trains emerging contractors and suppliers on fundamental business skills in support of government’s initiative to create jobs, develop skills and alleviate poverty. Students are trained in various disciplines, such as finance, project management, safety and people management.
The programme is run in all provinces, but the focus area is around Eskom’s new build sites, such as the Kusile power station, in Mpumalanga. All provinces are represented at the eight sites where training was conducted, namely in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, East London, Harrismith, Ladysmith, Midrand and Polokwane.
“Since its inception, the academy has made a huge impact for the small businesses that have been engaged and has given invaluable opportunities to emerging contractors nationally. In the period between 2010 and 2012, 438 contracts with a total value of R1.2-billion were awarded to contractors who completed their training through the academy,” says the company.
Based on information gathered from these companies, 302 new permanent jobs and 242 temporary positions were created. An additional R269-million was invested by the businesses in vehicle assets and R4-million in buildings, offices and workshops.
The objective of the academy is to equip emerging contractors and suppliers, especially black women-owned and black youth-owned companies, with the entrepreneurial, legislative, management and leadership skills needed to run a business successfully.
The programme is facilitated by nonprofit company of the University of Limpopo Edupark. The modules are accredited by the applicable sector education and training authority and students who successfully complete the whole programme are awarded a certificate by the University of Limpopo.
Pro-green chemical engineering company Mamapo Chemicals owner Ezekiel Madigoe will be awarded a certificate next month after successfully completing the Eskom Contractor Academy course. Madigoe learned about the academy when his company competed and won the overall prize in the Eskom Development Foundation (EDF) Business Investment Competition (BIC) in 2015.
“Being a believer in continuous learning and self-improvement, when I heard about the academy, enrolling for it was an obvious next step for me,” says Madigoe. His company, based in Lebowakgomo, Limpopo, was established in 2012. It manufactures and distributes a range of industrial and household chemicals, such as degreasers, laundry and dishwashing liquids. Mamapo also recently started manufacturing animal feed and fertilisers and providing waste management services.
Madigoe says he and his 34 employees have been struggling to secure long-term and major contracts and his participation in the academy will go a long way towards helping the company change that. He was inspired by the success stories of some of the academy’s previous students.
“The academy has made a huge impact in many entrepreneurs’ lives, including mine, and I’m already seeing its benefits. It is probably the best training I have ever received as an entrepreneur. The skills I’ve gained will help me better manage my business by putting good systems in place. I particularly learned a lot in the project, safety, health and financial management and employee wellness modules,” enthuses Madigoe.
Security company GlobeScope Security Solutions owner Glynn Mashonga also successfully completed the course, and is set to receive a certificate this month. Mashonga heard about the academy when her company competed and became a finalist in the BIC in 2015.
“I looked at the course outline of the programme and knew that the knowledge I would gain at the academy would add to my skills and knowledge but, most importantly, help my business grow,” says Mashonga.
GlobeScope Security Solutions was established in 2012 and is based in Cape Town. Mashonga started her company after working for a security company and decided to enter the security market on her own. The company installs sophisticated electronic security systems to keep tertiary institutions, corporates and homes in the Western Cape safe and secure. Its products include alarms, access control, CCTV, electric fences and gate automation. As a qualified technician, Mashonga does most of the product installations herself.
Mashonga says the industry is highly competitive and it is vital that all projects are completed on time and within the prescribed budgets as profit margins are minimal. “It is important, for instance, to have all health and safety systems in place on site to ensure the safety of your staff. The academy has provided me with all the tools and knowledge to enable me to implement these systems. I was recently awarded a maintenance contract which necessitated work being carried out at numerous sites and at different times. I was able to implement the knowledge I had gained from the project management course to accurately calculate the time needed to complete the work, as well as the profit margins,” says Mashonga.
The academy, which combines both theoretical and practical work, is covered over eight months and students attend a residential study school for a week every month. Eskom believes that by empowering small businesses and helping them to become profitable, the country can start addressing its socioeconomic challenges and start seeing a difference.
EDF acting CEO Cecil Ramonotsi says the organisation is committed to stimulating economic growth by promoting entrepreneurship among South Africans, especially the youth, so that they can create jobs.
“With our high unemployment rate and start-ups that fail within three years of existence, initiatives such as the Contractor Academy become major catalysts of meaningful change,” he concludes.