Forestry in South Africa
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December : FITPA/SAFCA - Report on the 3rd Annual Training Indaba

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3 December, 2012

Report on the 3rd Annual Training Indaba held in Nelspruit on Tuesday 06 November, 2012.

Training Induba
 Delegates at the training Indaba co-hosted by the South African Forestry Contractor's Association (SAFCA)
and the Forest Industries Training Providers' Association (FITPA)

The third annual "Training Indaba", co-hosted by the South African Forestry Contractor's Association (SAFCA) and the Forest Industries Training Providers' Association (FITPA), was attended by approximately 60 delegates on 06 November, 2012, held in the auditorium of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, on the outskirts of Nelspruit.

Delegates were warmly welcomed by the Programme Director for the day, Mr. Linda Vilakazi, from Siyaqubeka Forests, who made reference to the theme for this years' Indaba: "Forward Together". Linda wasted no time in introducing the first speaker, Doctor Jaap Steenkamp of the NMMU and SAFCA, who alluded to the appropriateness of the theme, given the huge amount of change that had occurred in the recent past. Dr Steenkamp highlighted the need to "adapt or die", and stressed the importance of anticipating what is going on around us, and in the economy, if one is to survive. With regard to the provision of training, he emphasised the need for training providers - as well as employers - to attend more specifically to the existing training matrixes, and to ensure the appropriateness of any interventions embarked upon.

In the absence of his Chief Executive, who was unfortunately unable to attend, Mr Lenny Paltu from the FP&M SETA spoke on the Forestry Sector's skills needs, and on the OFO codes (Organisational Framework of Occupations) which have recently been reviewed, and which will be linked to specific qualifications in the industry. Mr Paltu's presentation underlined the need for greater consultation between stakeholders, with regard to the actual occupational numbers and needs in the sector, conceding that the current draft for occupational pathing in the sector was (to say the least) highly flawed.

Following on from the above, Mr Paltu then presented an outline of the SETA's policy with regard to the accreditation of training providers, outlining the requirements for both provisional and  full accreditation, as well as the role and functions of the Quality Assurance Committee. Needless to say, both presentations led to some lively debate amongst delegates and to a plea to the FP&M SETA for (inter alia) greater attention to the matter of discretionary grant funding, and for greater involvement and respect on the part of the SETA for FITPA and other stakeholders.

The presentations by the SETA were followed by a passionate and most enlightening talk by Mr Philemon Mathebula on the Human Capital Development Programmes currently on offer from the Dept. of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

With approximately 250 internship opportunities, as well as various bursary and development programmes on offer, the Department is heavily committed to changing the perception of Forestry-related employment being "the work of the poor", and is currently in the process of developing a national career-awareness strategy. While this augers well for the future, Mr Mathebula stressed that progress was not without its challenges, and invited training providers and other stakeholders to support and participate in the various initiatives being undertaken.

Supervisor training and development featured high on the agenda of this year's Indaba, with presentations by Kerry Davies (Mondi Forest's Training and Development Manager), Pam Naidoo (SAFCA Capacity Development Manager and current FITPA chairperson), as well as Prof Michal Brink (Director of College of Machine Operations) all speaking on initiatives currently underway in their organisations. In her interesting presentation, Kerry outlined Mondi's commitment to Best Operating Practise, and to improving productivity (whilst at the same time reducing risk) through the targeting of "critical development initiatives". This approach had recently led to a focus on Chainsaw Operator training and assessment, as well as an investigation into the use of sharp tools in the company's operations, as well as increased awareness of Health and Safety issues - for example, more effective training of H & S representatives.  The training of Supervisors has received huge emphasis, including involvement by Mondi in the development and implementation of the level 4 Supervisor Development Programme (SDP), and commitment to a similar programme at NQF level 3, the development of which is currently being investigated.

Following on from Kerry's presentation, Pam Naidoo gave feedback on the implementation and initial assessment results of the Supervisor Development Programme that is currently being rolled out at various sites in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga. With the aid of videoed interviews of a supervisor and his superior, the benefits of the programme to both the supervisors and their employers was clearly evident from Pam's talk - not to mention the immense payback it is likely to have for the industry as a whole. Delegates were unanimous in applauding SAFCA - and Pam Naidoo in particular - for the sterling work she has done (and continues to do) in "championing" the development of this groundbreaking programme.

Still on the topic of Supervisor training, the presentation that followed was an insightful outline by Prof Michal Brink on the implementation of a supervisor course by the College for Machine Operators (CMO) for harvesting operator supervisors. This course was implemented through a discretionary grant obtained from the FP&M SETA that was applied for by SAFCA in partnership with CMO.  The course, based on the Deming cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) was conducted recently for three groups totalling 28 supervisors - the employers of whom will no doubt harvest rich rewards from the training.  A sample of 6 supervisors assessed provided the following results: (a) average score before training was 47% (b) average score after training was 89%.  The final result was an 89% improvement in performance.

After a sumptuous lunch, and a viewing of exhibitions put on by various providers, the "graveyard shift" was led by Mr John Chandler (Masakhane Forestry Contractors), who gave an interesting presentation titled "A Tool to Change Attitude and Behaviour".  In emphasising the need for a "bottom upwards" approach to training and education, as opposed to the "top downwards" approach more commonly used, John described the aim and process of the programme which has been implemented by his company, in an effort to reinforce common values such as respect and honesty - both at the workplace as well as in broader society. The results of the three-day programme (offered by the Ethics and Leadership Institute) have been a marked reduction in the incidence of absenteeism, theft, vandalism, and substance abuse in this organisation - and are clearly something to be considered by other employers.

The benefits of FITPA membership to training providers in the industry were highlighted in the following presentation by Mr Lukas Hogewind (owner of Aquila Training, and current Mpumalanga/Limpopo representative for FITPA), who introduced a Manual for Training Providers which he is in the process of developing for FITPA. This comprehensive manual will be of great benefit both to established as well as "emerging" providers, covering critical aspects such as (inter alia) the recommended qualifications, and the procedure for the accreditation of training facilitators. This was followed by a short presentation by Mr James Ballantyne (JaBe Consulting and current Kwa-Zulu Natal representative for FITPA) on a needs analysis exercise that has been undertaken by FITPA, in an attempt to identify meaningful goals and objectives for the Association, whilst at the same time improving service delivery to its members.

The final presentation took the form of an eloquent response to the day's proceedings by Mr Jerry Makhanya from FAWU, on behalf of Organised Labour in the industry. Mr Makhanya expressed appreciation for the various efforts being made to uplift and improve the skills of forestry workers, and reiterated the need that was expressed by various speakers, ie.for all stakeholders to work together for mutual reward.

In summing up the day's proceedings and thanking the various presenters and sponsors, the theme of "Forward Together" was aptly expressed by Mr Michael Hlengwa of SAFCA, who noted the presence of important role players at the Indaba, and their combined ability to "make a difference".

Footnote: Further details on the Indaba presentations, in the form of a CD, may be obtained by contacting Nicky Naidoo at the SAFCA offices in Pietermaritzburg, Tel: (033) 3947207.

Download the original Word document:  Training Indaba Report 2012