This is both symbolic and pragmatic and the biggest question is how to align the industry’s priorities with those of Minister Tokyo Sexwale and his team.
The fourth commission at the summit in Midrand explored the issues, hurdles and opportunities the re-alignment presented and made practical recommendations for the future.
The starting point for any such discussion, it was suggested, would be to broaden the scope and role of the industry so that there was a clear picture of who was catered for under the new dispensation.
“We also discussed the scoping role that should be redefined to specialisation areas and that there should be occupational and learning pathways that will encourage newcomers,” said Nontokozo Zondi, manager of the real estate, commercial property and auctioneering chamber at the Services Seta.
This was considered crucial to retaining talent within the industry, which tended to suffer from high turnover rates partly because of a short-term view related to unclear career paths or specialisations, but also because of the financial constraints on entering the industry.
The reluctance of existing property practitioners and agencies to take in interns and provide mentorship was raised as another hurdle that stifled new entrants.
An underlying cause of the rather short-term view of the industry, it was suggested, was its lack of professional status and therefore stature and aspirational qualities. The way to overcome this would be to review or update existing qualifications aimed specifically at the real estate profession.
“Practitioners also informed us that they don’t believe a principal estate agent should only hold a national qualifications framework level five qualification. They believe that they should further their skills to degrees so they can understand the various complexities,” said Zondi.
Such training would also contri-bute to the development of business skills that could build the sustainability of the industry as a whole.
It was suggested that courses be developed at tertiary institution level to cater for specific career paths and specialisations, while also recognising prior learning and qualifications to facilitate enrolment in these advanced courses.
It was strongly felt that although the industry wanted to attract the right skills and attitudes, the exemption from industry-specific qualifications for professionals entering it in mid-career should be revised as a way to protect incumbents.
The issue of professionalising the industry also demanded that entry and education standards be retained at current levels, although ongoing and compulsory skills training should form part of any property practitioner’s career path.
Further research was needed to clearly identify the areas of specialisation and the educational requirements needed to give effect to the professionalisation drive.
Commission members proposed a number of solutions to the question of building a credible, professional industry, starting with fostering aspiration at school level through dedicated career guidance programmes and even including relevant subjects in the school curriculum.
The entry of black professionals could be stimulated by increasing learning opportunities and facilities, particularly in the townships, and introducing support schemes through the Department of Human Settlements.
Such support could be funding in the start-up phase, supplemental funding to that provided by the Services Seta for interns, as well as by giving preference to emerging agents from the government property stock.
In fact, the internship model was ripe for review, from the type and level of induction, mentorship mechanisms and remuneration to commission structures.
Suggestions on this reform included structuring the internship so that both theoretical and practical skills are acquired without being financially penalised by historical approaches to remuneration.
The industry would also bene-fit from expanding the types of interns to include other functions within the business, such as finance, office administration and human resources duties.
The flipside to the internship coin is that of mentoring. There was a suggestion that a mentorship development programme be created to improve the type of training and support provided. This could be achieved by drawing on experienced agents to train the newer mentors while mentorship and coaching hubs are created.
Giving effect to Sexwale’s assertion that the summit would not simply be a talk shop, the commission members committed to introducing a One Learner, One Agency programme to fast-track the inclusion of new entrants. “This project will start in 2013 and we believe that it will help towards transformation.
“We ask that every principal agent partner with this project because, by taking on one learner, we will be able to do our part for transformation,” said Zondi.