According to the International Monetary Fund, the construction sector was one of the industries that were most affected by COVID-19. This hasn’t deterred a group of local Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) students. In the face of adversity are more inspired to grow their careers, become independent and start their own businesses.
According to Letitia van Rensburg, Training Officer at Master Builders’ Association for the Western Cape (MBAWC); the company’s most recent OHS Learnership Programme began March 2019 with 9 out of 11 students graduating in September 2020.
“The purpose of this programme is to guide an individual with a passion for OHS; from a low knowledge base; to the required level, in order to become a professional in a period of 18-24 months,” she said.
To take part in this programme, the entry-level requirement; Grade 12 certificate; medically fit to work on a site and to reside in the Cape Town area and surrounds, van Rensburg added. “The programme also gave the learners the ability to earn and learn, while gaining valuable experience in the profession and working towards a qualification.”
However, this year was an anomaly due to COVID-19, which most of the learners tackled head-on with positivity, optimism, and the resolve to complete the course and grow their careers.
One of the students, Cleopatra Mnqanqeni said; “I used the time in the hard lockdown to work on my portfolio and logbook; space to reflect on how the items fit together. Post lockdown put us in a position where we had to assist Grinaker-LTA with new COVID-19 regulations. We had to work as a team on new implementation guidelines of unfamiliar content. We were also forced to use electronic platforms such as Zoom which was a good learning curve.”
Deen Lewis agrees; pointing out the extra hard work and effort while things were rough during the hard lockdown. “I refused to give up, because if I made it this far – I could make the programme and get through his period.”
“I found that I was able to push my own boundaries and that dedication, commitment and hard work pays off in the end,” said Engelina Gama.
“I’m inspired to move from a Candidate Construction Health and Safety Officer (CHO) to a full safety management role as a professional OHS Manager. I would also like to mentor new people coming into this role.”
Jadon Davids wants to become an OHS management expert and consult around the world. “On-site the COVID-19 regulations made a new level of compliance a reality. We had to implement and manage new rules, and still practice all the other safety aspects on a site. Working in construction; I see a need for safety, but this took it to a new level. A great opportunity for me to learn and further my career.”
Using the time
“The lockdown made it easier to just focus on work,” said Khanyisiwe Futshane. “This was a small blessing in a way and now that I have completed the course, I can see the path for my future.”
“The programme is worth every sacrifice. I dedicated my time to ensure that I achieve the desired outcome,” added Mischa Arendse. “I have now set myself up for the future, will make better earnings, have more training opportunities and be able to further my professional development.
Celine van Wyk said that meeting different people from various communities was a highlight for her. “The fact that I was exposed to a new world of diversity and learning was really pushing me to grow. I was very shy when I joined the programme and I am now able to express myself in my own voice. I want to remain in the Construction Industry as an OHS practitioner for the foreseeable future.”
The OHS programme future
This programme is a passion point for Rael Jacobs; “The opportunity aligned with a strong social need to eliminate risk and hazards in our environments. Construction OHS fits my passions. I look forward to registering with the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professionals as an OHS practitioner. The goal of gaining working experience in other regions of the world too.”
Tjeka Training Matters; training partner for the programme solidified the importance of mentorship, commented Letitia van Rensburg. “The training company took a strong lead in having an appointed mentor for the student to refer to in their portfolio work, as well as during their time on-site.”
“However, you cannot yield success in a process like this without the learner’s own ability to be dedicated to the learning process. It is not always an easy path being a working person and learning, but these learners showed initiative and passion to get to CHO status,” she concluded.