EAAB launch ambitious previously disadvantaged intern programme

The Estate Agency Affairs Board’s programme to transform the real estate sector by introducing previously disadvantaged learners into estate agencies across the country – which was proposed and put together by the former Minister of Human Settlements, Tokyo Sexwale – is now about to go ahead and, following its adoption by the new Minister, the Honourable Connie September, will be rolled out over the next ten weeks.

Bryan Chaplog, CEO of the Estate Agency Affairs Board, has asked for all estate agency leaders to sign a pledge form committing their companies to the programme – and, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, the response has been on the whole been very positive.

“As proposed at the original summit conference, where I played an integral role,” said Clarke, “the main aim of the programme is to de-racialise the estate agency sector. The goal is to have every agency in South Africa as well as each branch/franchise of those agencies to take on new intern agent from a previously disadvantaged background.”

The agency or branch monitoring the intern, said Clarke, will be responsible for mentoring and teaching their intern via the EAAB and more specifically helping him to study and pass the compulsory NQF4 and later the NQF5 examinations.

It should also be noted, added Clarke, that Services SETA have also confirmed that they will help facilitate the programme.  

“If successful, the intern programme definitely has the potential to fast-track transformation in our sector,” said Clarke. “The day could come where the real estate industry, as it should, truly reflects the racial makeup of South Africa. However, it has to be recognised that the programme will be a sad failure if we do not address certain shortcomings in it.”

The first of these, said Clarke, is that the real estate qualifications courses, while giving interns valuable knowledge on technicalities, legislation and general working of the real estate sector, do not teach the selling, marketing and human relationship skills which are a crucial part of the ‘equipment’ of any successful agent.

“To compensate for this gap in their teachings,” explains Clarke, “the EAAB expects the intern to gather practical experience, in this regard, from their mentor.”    

The shortcoming here, said Clarke, is that the smaller agencies almost certainly do not have learning facilities, learning programs or enough staff to assign a mentor to each and every intern.

A second shortcoming, said Clarke, is that, as the programme is currently being implemented, it appears to expect the intern to be able to support himself completely – for example, put petrol in his car, pay cell phone bills, etc. throughout the initial six month period during which it will be very unlikely if he receives any pay at all because the estate agency industry works on commissions only.

“Some sort of stipend is going to have to be found to get the trainee through these first few months,” said Clarke.

A third problem, said Clarke, is that while many people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds might wish to return to their home turf to operate as estate agents, there are, as yet, far too few agencies in these areas to support them.

The EAAB’s goal, said Clarke, is for 60% of its interns to have a tertiary education and for the remainder to have matriculated.

The Rawson Property Group, said Clarke, is committed to meeting the transformation goals and to finding ‘ingenious’ solutions to work around the problems mentioned with the hope of bringing success to the program. However, he added, the biggest challenge, which is not recruitment but in fact retention, is concerning because only a few agencies will be able to handle this task thoroughly.

“The real value of the comprehensive, holistic training that the Rawson Property Group has always insisted that its agents undergo is now being shown to the full,” said Clarke, “but I am concerned that not all agency groups are able to offer training of this kind – and this will mean that interns will quite possibly be thrown to the lions without all the required skills needed.”

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