MAIN IMAGE: Leo Mlambo, president of National Property Forum and Christo Weilbach, president of IEASA.
The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) is encouraging estate agencies to support the roll-out of their newly updated One Learner One Estate Agency training programme and have assured industry bodies changes have been made to avoid a repeat of the failures with the first roll-out.
From the start of the year the EAAB has been meeting with industry bodies about the One Learner One Estate Agency Youth Brigade programme.
It is a well-known fact in the property industry that the ‘One Learner’ programme was a failure in terms of the number of black young people that it introduced into the estate agency industry. Both Rebosa and the National Property Forum (NPF) have raised issues about the handling of the 5 year-old recruiting and training programme and pertinently told Mamodupi Mohlala, the new CEO of the EAAB, unless these are addressed, they are hesitant to support the roll-out of the new programme.
Mohlala earlier this year said she is serious about transforming the industry into being more representative of the country’s demographics. Certain exemptions for previously disadvantaged individuals (PDI’s) studying to be estate agents have already been introduced and now Mohlala hope to recruit 5 000 interns/recruits in the new roll-out of the One Learner programme and is looking for estate agencies to take these recruits under their wing.
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High drop-out rate in ‘One Learner’
In 2014 the One Learner programme was launched by the Human Settlements Department with high hopes to fast-track the greater participation of black people, specifically women, young people and people with disabilities in the estate agent industry. The stated objective was to bring 10 000 from these groups into the industry, train them at existing estate agencies until they are fully trained and registered estate agents. The students would receive a monthly stipend of R1 500 while completing their NQF4 training but no salary.
However, it soon became clear that the programme’s objective was going to be a challenge. By March 2015 there were only 906 recruits and a year later 49% of these had dropped out. A high drop-out rate continued to plague the programme. In 2018 only 200 interns graduated in June out of a 750 intake with 352 that exited the programme.
In short, more than R34 million have been spent with apparently very little to show for it. If 200 qualified the cost per individual exceeded R170 000. In the 2018/19 financial year the EAAB approved a budget of just over R57 million for the training of 1 254 – roughly translating into a spend of more than R45 000 per person.
Despite the challenges, there were also some positive experiences. Andre Jordt, franchisee of Rawson Properties Witbank, said their franchise appointed 15 interns. “Despite coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and literacy issues, these interns showed a great willingness to learn, they were good people and had a very positive outlook to life. Despite the red tape involved with joining this programme, it was truly a humbling experience for my team and I,” Jordt said.
NPF hopeful about ‘improved’ One Learner
The failure of the first One Learner One Estate Agency programme is a matter dear to the heart of Leo Mlambo, founder and president of the NPF. Mlambo says he found most of the recruits he took in, joined up only for the stipend and this was not enough to meet their financial needs. Consequently, most of his students dropped out before completing the programme.
Mlambo believes for the programme to succeed it must be structured differently, and after successive meetings with Mohlala, he says he is heartened that some of the NPF’s suggested changes have been incorporated into the “improved One Learner”, as he says he prefers to call it.
Among these changes is the introduction of ‘incubation hubs’ and the involvement of the government departments such as the Department of Public Works in the programme. According to Mlambo interns who have completed one year of training and want to continue training as estate agents will be referred to these incubation hubs where they will be mentored by a well-experienced principal and will have access to property markets.
“We will see how the roll-out goes in the implementation phase, but for now we are quite excited. We are actually going to urge our members to support this programme,” Mlambo said.
Why Rebosa has ‘grave misgivings’
Jan le Roux, chief executive of Rebosa, in the April Rebosa newsletter said they have “grave misgivings about the process being followed for Phase 2” of the One Learner One Estate Agency Youth Brigade programme. “We are all aware of the failure of Phase 1 and we were hoping that the lessons learnt would be addressed, so as to ensure the success of the new programme,” Le Roux said.
Also of concern for Rebosa is the appointment of only one training service provider, the Johannesburg-based Milzet Institute, by the Services SETA (Sector Education & Training Authority) for this One Learner programme. The training institute falls under Milzet Consulting Services, a property development and facilities management company. According to the website of the Milzet Institute the training provider offers classroom tuition on their Johannesburg premises and also have a network of nationwide partner facilities.
Rebosa’s concerns include whether the institute has the resources to train to learners all over the country. It is important for Rebosa that the training also should provide for mentorship. Rebosa’s preference would be that the EAAB allow estate agencies, if it is their preference, to make use of training service providers that they already have a working relationship with as long as they are accredited with the Services SETA and have the necessary BEE accreditation. Rebosa says they are also waiting for proof that an open tender process was followed with the appointment of Milzet Institute as the training service provider.
Rebosa in January had a meeting with the Services SETA and the EAAB about Phase 2 where the industry body raised the mentioned concerns among others and firmly indicated a comprehensive project plan is needed before they endorse the programme to their members.
With these matters still unresolved, Le Roux in April told the EAAB and the organisation’s members that he doesn’t believe Rebosa can with good conscience, encourage their members to participate unless their concerns are addressed. He added that members are more than welcome to support the new programme, in which case they must please liaise with the EAAB directly.
IEASA in support
Christo Weilbach, president of the Institute of Estate Agents of South Africa (IEASA) says in their meetings with the new CEO “it was clear that she has new and different approach to the project. As such, IEASA supports the project and would encourage it’s members to participate”.
“But we also believe that a bigger effort is needed from the EAAB to engage with the large number of unregistered estate agencies operating in the townships and other areas. By assisting them to comply, a whole new market can be developed that will massively drive and improve transformation,” Weilbach ends.
The EAAB, Services SETA and Milzet Institute were all also approached for comment but up to now only the Services SETA has responded to say that they will indicate soon how long it will take them to send a detailed comment.
What would be your advice to the EAAB to ensure the new One Learner programme will meet with more success than the first initiative? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.