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Tertiary Training Cements Professionalism in Commercial Sector

Operators in the commercial real estate sector have every opportunity to achieve the highest levels of professionalism. Their participation in the ongoing successes of continuing professional development (CPD) programmes nationally is thanks to the long-term commitments and collaborative efforts of universities, industry bodies and businesses.

Skilled as well as aspiring operators enjoy access to numerous paths for career enhancement. Proficiency and relevance in an ever-changing market is taught by highly regarded academics and established market practitioners, who incorporate real-world methodologies both within and outside university lecture halls. Added value derived from the upholding of global standards for professional achievement includes enhanced credibility, reduced risk, a competitive edge and advanced levels of personal development.

Efforts to meet international standards and possible accreditation through a dedicated professional industry body is promoted through improved regulatory and industry control. “Raising the bar of professional education in the commercial real estate sector at Sapoa continues as part of a long-term goal to professionalise an industry with a low tolerance of rogue practitioners,” says Martin Ferguson, human resources director at Sapoa.

The continuing success of industry partnerships, including corporate sponsorships and scholarships, ensures that the training needs of skilled and unskilled operators are catered for. Endorsement and recognition of qualifications and accreditation towards a broad spectrum of CPD points, as required by the EAAB, are provided for by Sapoa, the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) and others. This applies to five CPD points only per annum.

“While training programmes provide Sapoa with an income stream, the process enhances credibility both nationally and internationally towards high standards of conduct, ethics and accreditation of academic institutions in a fast-growing industry,” says Ferguson.

Mandatory compliance and the earning of CPD points, as required of professionals in other sectors, are facilitated by the EAAB. A comprehensive diary of national EAAB workshops this year coincides with the first three-year rolling CPD cycle was promised and should have commenced in January. Very little has been forthcoming at publication date.

Greater availability of part-time courses can be seen as institutions increasingly recognise the need for working people to further their skills in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. This is in addition to NQF qualifications and full-time undergraduate and postgraduate real estate degree courses.

The proliferation of e-campus offerings in line with global market trends promotes part-time educational programmes on virtual platforms, with growth reported in national enrolments. The EAAB says plans are afoot for greater online course participation, to enable students outside major metropolitan areas to accrue a required number of verifiable CPD points.

Part-time education at executive level needs little introduction after the successful implementation in 1969 of a two-week full-time Property Development Programme (PDP) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Graduate School of Business (GSB).


The UCT Graduate School of Business campus at the historic Breakwater Lodge in Green Point, Cape Town


Kumeshnee West, acting director of executive education, says the GSB is respected internationally for the calibre and style of its leadership and management development programmes. Says West: “We are very proud of the partnerships we have with industry, and the extremely popular PDP course is a great example of what can be achieved when those partnerships operate in synergy.”

West says that since its inception the PDP programmes, presented jointly by GSB and Sapoa, have attracted about 2,435 graduates and that it remains one of the longest-running and most prestigious course at UCT.

Sapoa’s Martin Ferguson, who is also the course director at the GSB, says: “Sapoa has over 37 years witnessed a 100% pass rate and enrolments to maximum capacity of up to 72 students.” He says the high level of entry and stringent practical application of this course requires either a graduate education or a minimum of seven years’ middle to senior management experience. Those who attend the course are divided into groups of eight, according to participants’ areas of specialisation.

The dedication CPD educational teams who facilitate such courses to the acclaim of investors and business alike cannot be underestimated. The School of the Built Environment at the University Pretoria (UP), headed by Professor Christo Cloete, who together with his team is reputed for the design of internationally recognised degree courses, pioneered a one-year distance-learning programme in 1997. The UP Certificate of the Commercial Property Practitioner (CCPP) runs over 10 months and is in its 15th year as an EAAB-accredited and Sapoa-endorsed course.

Says Cloete: “The scope of this course – regarded as comprehensive with the added pass requirement of a certificate of attendance – is a joint undertaking by a 50/50 mix of industry professionals and academics.” He says the course has, since inception, attracted 1,050 registrations and has enjoyed a 50% completion rate and 53% pass rate, representing about 90% of those who write the exam.

Cloete, who continues to serve on a number of tertiary and industry education committees, says collaboration between UP and the SACSC has resulted in the development of two retail industry courses: the one-week, full-time SACSC Certificate in Shopping Centre Management course attracts about 70 participants, while the one-year Advanced Certificate in Shopping Centre Leadership has seen the enrolment of 20 to 30 industry professionals.

The addition of four options two years ago by the Wits University School of Construction Economics and Management, relatively a newcomer to short-term education, has been initiated as part of the university’s CPD programme. Professor Samuel Azasu, who heads the team of course educators, says 2015 saw steady growth in the number of enrolments despite a difficult start. Says Azasu: “Engagement with industry collaborators has allowed the design of courses to suit commercial practitioners at various levels of entry, from national diploma to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.” The faculty also attracts students from neighbouring countries and welcomes future accreditation by reputable institutions. “The decision to conduct quality short courses on an in-house basis, as opposed to outsourcing, is a matter of reputation and places strong emphasis on offering an internationally competitive training programme for the industry.” He says the same high standards and quality control that apply to any executive or other course offered at Wits are upheld at all times.

Various certificated e-learning options are available across leading portals. GetSmarter, which has partnered with UCT, offers the UCT Commercial Property Broker, Law and Practice online short course. Angie Labuschagne of GetSmarter says: “GetSmarter is SETA approved and will shortly be offering a property investment short course.” Although GetSmarter courses do not yet contribute towards CPD points, “they are recognised by Africa’s leading university, the University of Cape Town”.

Other institutions that offer a variety of short- and long-term courses include the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Free State and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Sapoa’s Ferguson says future accreditation for the achievement of high levels of skill through one or two dedicated commercial real estate bodies aims to follow the lead of industries in the built environment, engineering, architecture, quantity surveying, conveyance, accounting and valuation.

Words: Anna-Marie Smith

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