Where does BluLever fit in with apprenticeships?

02 March 2022

By Eamonn Ryan

Brendan Reynolds, executive director of IOPSA, explains the role of BluLever as a training provider to the plumbing community: “While BluLever is a member of IOPSA, it has not yet committed to the process of becoming an approved training provider.

“We have worked together with them on a number of projects, most recently on a project called Skills for Prosperity, whereby the latest cohort of apprentices is being put through the BluLever programme. This is a combined project by IOPSA, BluLever and Harambee. “BluLever comes with a lot of energy and a vibe which presents an entirely new approach to learning in the plumbing space. It is different to some other colleges in the market which have become almost ‘sausage machine’ factories for pumping out artisans. This does not apply to all of them, obviously, and certainly not the ones we partner with.

“BluLever has a young, different and fresh approach that brings a different dimension to training artisans.”

Reynolds notes that another training provider – React 24 in Cape Town – has a similar philosophy which brings a new, fresh approach to apprenticeships. The others are nonetheless successful in producing quantities of artisans from the various trades to a high standard.

“All of them – certainly all the IOPSA approved programmes – take apprentices to the point of the trade test. However, what these other programmes bring in is the extras – the work readiness and life skills, and assistance with a defined career path.”

The big question that hangs over all such training, and especially those that add the extra dimension, says Reynolds, is the question of taking the concept to scale. “The minute you start giving individualised attention, scale becomes difficult. It might be that this model works whereby a few colleges could train top-notch people and not for the mass market. A model which works for 70 to 100 people may not work in the same manner if it were 400 to a thousand apprentices. However, that scale is the challenge that faces the plumbing industry,” cautions Reynolds.

Employers are more willing to take on apprentices

While there is demand for apprentices enrolled on the Skills for Prosperity course, Reynolds notes that in general there has been a reluctance by employers to take on ordinary apprentices. “It is gradually changing through our various programmes – such as ARPL (Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning) with a number of colleges including Tjeka and PCD colleges, Nedbank ED 360 which is project managed by Because you’re Worth It, Dual System Pilot Project (DSPP), the Department of Higher Education’s Centres of Specialisation – which are changing that mindset, but in the past it was a challenge to get employers to accept apprentices.

“What’s changing this mindset among these newer programmes is the preparatory work they do. Whether it is BluLever or Because you’re Worth It, they do a lot of initial work with apprentices and employers alike so that both parties know what to expect. Apprentices know beforehand the type of work they’re in for and don’t get demoralised if it’s occasionally a hard grind. They prepare the young people’s expectations for that work environment. They simultaneously prepare the employer to appoint someone to manage and mentor the apprentice, and who also knows what to expect.

“That is quite a different environment to having an apprentice who doesn’t know what to expect, and an employer with no idea what they should be doing, and both irritating each other. As that mentality begins to change, I think we will see employers more keen to get involved,” says Reynolds/

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