My Future in Industrial Contracting

Industrial Contracting
Industrial Contractor for 25 Years

I have worked in the industrial contracting sector for nigh on thirty years, first as an apprentice boiler maker and welder, later for myself as a subcontractor. The job has been good to me: I never expected to get rich, and definitely that is the case… but I have enjoyed the work, the camaraderie of fellow workers in this rough and tough industry…

I have had the opportunity to build a small succesful business, and have a core team of workers who are reliable mostly, some who have been with me a long time, one who has stayed through thick and thin  since I started out for myself.

Times Changing, Time to Change

I work mainly for a few prime contractors, one of whom provides about 80% of my work. It’s been a good arrangement, they procure the work, manage part-time workers, and take care of much work I would otherwise have to do – and spending time negotiating for contracts is time out of earning a living.

You can imagine how I felt when during the second half of last year, my prime source of business mentioned he was under considerable pressure to hire only “equity approved” sub-contractors… Many of the main work providers in the region are either para-statals or provide products to these, and the law requires such organisations to meet black economic empowerment (BEE) equity levels.

I have two choices, take on a ‘black’ partner (how I despise this racial term in a nation where racism is supposed to be a thing of the past!) in order to be able to continue providing my services, or simply face a lot less work being available.

My Business, No Partners

I built up this business, starting with nothing more than a tool-box – I didn’t even own a car or a van when I started out. Today I have a considerable investment (by my standards) in the tools and equipment I own – nearly all paid for  with cash, so I have no intention of handing over half of my business to a figurehead equity partner. In any case, this is not the sort of business that can have more than one chief.

Moving On

So, its time to move on. A new beginning in a new industry perhaps. I have spent these past 8 months thinking about what I would like to do, what I can do, what I have the money to do. I am at a time in my life where I cannot take un-calculated risks with the little capital I have managed to accumulate over the years. I realise whatever path I follow will be for the next 20 years or longer…

Fishing: If there’s anything I would rather do – it’s fishing. Fishing is something that get’s into ones blood, and if it does, you are hooked forever. But it is not an industry with much future for new entrants, either locally or internationally. There are other areas related to the industry however e.g. tourism, fishing lodges, fishing charters, tackle and so on. My wife of many years, Jen, has (and continues to ) encourage me to find an avenue related to fishing to pursue, and I think I may have found not one, but possibly three areas with potential.

Ray (The Fisherman)


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  1. #1 by Babasizwe on 23/08/2012 - 20:46

    Ray. Sorry to hear this. You’re just another victim of the insanity that as taken over this country. One would think that when the infrastructure is falling to pieces because there are no repairs done, and government and business crying about a skills shortage, capable people would be encouraged instead of being sidelined.
    Sadly racism is definitely not a thing of the past in South Africa today, it’s as deeply entrenched in government policy as it was before 1994.
    I wish you success whatever path you choose to follow. If I may venture a suggestion – Mozambique has interesting possibilities, and that government welcomes skilled South Africans, regardless of racial classification. And people say fishing is very good too.

    • #2 by Ray the Fisherman on 23/08/2012 - 21:47

      Thanks for your thoughts. The skills thing you mention puzzles me too. The whole thing makes no sense at all. Anyway, I guess that’s politics.

      Also, thanks for the Moz suggestion. Something to think about. I’ve a few colleagues who moved up there and seem happy to have done so. Maybe a fishing expedition is in order.

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