Some of the learners on the bricklayer training course practising how to lay bricks into a corner.
A group of 25 unemployed residents from Cornubia, the affordable housing development north of Umhlanga, and the nearby Blackburn informal settlement are learning the skills they need to find jobs as bricklayers in a public private sector partnership (PPP) involving Tongaat Hulett Developments and several government departments.
The trainees are completing a skills development course consisting of one month of theoretical and practical training followed by two months of work experience.
The bricklaying course is being offered free to the community. Government is sponsoring the cost and Tongaat Hulett Developments is providing the platform to link the community to work in the area.
Training began with a job readiness programme in March, including safety in the workplace. After learning the theory, the men and women put their skills into practice laying brick walls up to roof level, including building corners and making provision for windows and doors.
The training was provided by Elangeni TVET College at Tongaat Hulett Developments’ Blackburn Estates SSIP (Socioeconomic Sustainability and Innovation Programme) Hub which is located on the premises of the old Blackburn Primary School.
After completing the training on 8 April the delegates have achieved an NQF Level 2 certificate for the brickwork component of the community housebuilding qualification. This means they are certified to apply health and safety to a work area, to build masonry superstructures using solid and hollow units and to set out, excavate and cast a concrete strip foundation.
Equipped with protective clothing, they are now set to start their work experience with some of the building contractors that have been commissioned to build the affordable houses on the Cornubia estate. While doing this work experience, they will earn small stipends.
“These candidates are being prepared to enter into employment as bricklayers,” said Joe White, Director of Catalyx, the implementing partner of the initiative, which coordinates many SSIP activities on the ground for Tongaat Hulett Developments.
“We are in the process of liaising with the different housing contractors working on the Cornubia estate to finalise their placements.”
“Bricklaying emerged as one of the priorities when we workshopped the different skills that were needed at the Cornubia Industrial & Business Estate (CIBE),” said Bongani Gumede, corporate director of Tongaat Hulett Developments which developed the Cornubia estate in partnership with the Department of Human Settlements.
This is just the start of a multi-faceted long term training programme involving people from the Cornubia estate and the Blackburn informal settlement that will encompass, not only bricklaying, but other construction skills such as carpentry and plumbing.
“We hope that those learning bricklaying will first gain experience and then learn another skill such as plumbing so that eventually they can become fully fledged contractors,” Gumede said.
“The long term goal is that everyone living at Cornubia will be employed.”
“The idea is to bring together as many property value chain partners in Cornubia – the contractors, the lot purchasers and the tenants or occupiers – with ourselves, training providers and government by pooling resources, both financial and non-financial.”
Gumede said that the founding partners of the SSIP project in Cornubia were the national and KZN Departments of Human Settlements providing housing and linkage with other government departments; the eThekwini Municipality offering skills development, placement, business support and social services; and Tongaat Hulett Developments contributing various SSIP elements.
“This initiative is a fine example of a public private sector partnership that is helping to achieve government’s skills development objectives and provide employment,” said Beryl Mphakathi, head of eThekwini Municipality’s Department of Housing.
“This initiative is a fine example of a public private sector joint venture partnership that is helping to achieve government’s skills development objectives and provide employment,” said Beryl Mphakathi, Head of Department of eThekwini Municipality’ Human Settlements Unit.
“The benefactors are all collaborating to fund and support social upliftment projects to maximise the impact on the community.”
Several other organisations have since formed partnerships with the project, including Elangeni TVET College for skills development and the contractors working at Cornubia. Catalyx has also played an important role coordinating SSIP projects and providing capacity building solutions relating to the social census, skills development, enterprise development, opportunity identification and employment facilitation.
“All key stakeholders are part of the picture, including the local community,” Gumede said.
The newly qualified bricklayers all live in either Blackburn Village – also known as Choppers as this is where the sugar cane cutters lived – or the new houses at Cornubia. They are all grateful for what Tongaat-Hulett Developments, the involved government departments and other partners have done to bring this opportunity to their doorstep.
One of the trainees, Bheki Nkosi, lives in one of the new Cornubia houses. He was previously a machine operator in a factory, but was injured.
“When I recovered there was no work so I couldn’t go back to my job. I have been out of work for two years so I am very happy to have the opportunity to learn how to lay bricks,” he said.
Another Cornubia resident, Handsome Shange, previously had a contract for the Wildlands Trust clearing alien plants on the Cornubia estate but his contract ended.
“I am looking forward to using this new skill I have learned to help me get a job,” he said.
Gumede concluded, “This initiative has huge potential. We should never underestimate small beginnings because they can lead to great things.”