Adriaan Myburgh: new national IOPSA President

Adriaan Myburgh: new national IOPSA President

By: Eamonn Ryan

In March, Lea Smith stepped down as President of IOPSA. Force majeur in the form of Covid-19 prevented his successor from immediately stepping into his shoes. But on 23 June, Adriaan Myburgh was finally elected remotely to the position during the AGM held online. 

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Most people know Myburgh from his work on IOPSA Technical Talks each week, but he has a long history in plumbing.

“Four of us were recruited from my alma mater Technical High School, Oudtshoorn, by one of our older alumni, Tien Jordaan. He had already been operating a successful plumbing business, Jordaan’s Plumbers, in Port Elizabeth for a number of years. It was a fortunate break for me to be mentored by an absolute professional, respected by his peers. He not only treated all his staff, apprentices and artisans equally with respect, but was quick to step in when there were any instances of non-compliance with rules and regulations. He and his wife were like a dad and mom for me away from home: he had a huge impact on how I look at things: that the easiest way to do something is to do it the right way, with no need to reinvent the wheel if others have already done it successfully,” says Myburgh.

He has been drawn throughout his career to the broader building industry by its ‘hands-on’ character: “As a whole, plumbing is a very ‘involved’ trade – as a plumber, you are one of the first people on any building project, site setup (ablutions, water points, and more). During that same project you will interact with almost every trade working on that site, from underground drainage, provision of sleeves and ducts, the actual chasing (demolition according to most builders) and work in the building, right up to finishing stages. That requires some serious planning and keeping your wits about you. That was always part of my inspiration – making a difference at a time when it matters,” Myburgh adds.

He says he was fortunate to be involved right from the start in any number of major construction projects at a time when there were big projects on the go in his area. “Mr Jordaan had enough faith in me to include me on the planning side, but I was never really keen on the paperwork side.” However, that blind spot had to change as the projects grew in complexity and responsibilities increased.

He lists some examples: “Our company was involved with a couple of housing projects. The first project I managed was the Standard Bank Regional Offices (PE). We did some major revamps on local hospitals, as well as some new wings being built. We built some office blocks, including Sanlam Park, being a nice new development. Then there were shopping centres; ongoing renovations to the Greenacres Shopping Centre; as well as the new Makro that was going up in Port Elizabeth at the time. We replaced an 80m drainage run – at and through a local dairy – starting at 2.5m deep and finishing up at around 4.5m deep. This later project was concluded without a single interruption to their production schedule. My last project was a 72-unit apartment block overlooking the ocean. The involvement in the design and positioning of all the services was a challenge that our company was able to assist the design team with,” says Myburgh. 

Career highlights

“I was blessed with a lot of highlights in my career. I was awarded the Bifsa Apprenticeship Award in my first year while at technical college. I did my trade test at Olifantsfontein – you can ask any qualified plumber, that day when you get your red seal is one you never forget. In 1999, I applied to the local authority for the position of Plumbing and Drainage Inspector, a position that few local authorities still have today. It was quite funny working with the guys that used to inspect my work, but when my supervisor left my colleagues encouraged me to apply for his position. In 2008 I was promoted to Senior Plumbing and Drainage Inspector for the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM), a position I still hold today. In 2017 I was nominated to become a member of the PIRB Executive Committee, a nomination I accepted in order for me to be part of the way forward for the industry. Since then I have started becoming part of some other PIRB committees, like the TAC and the CPD committees, and now I feel I have achieved one of the biggest milestones of being voted in as the IOPSA President,” he adds.

“It is evident from the improving pass rate of the assessments being done, albeit IOPSA assessments for designations or PIRB ones, that plumbers are starting to take their industry seriously again.”

“IOPSA was formed while I was busy with my apprenticeship, and we were encouraged to attend those early meetings, as employees of a member – Jordaan’s Plumbers. At that time, we saw it as an opportunity to meet up with apprentices from other plumbing firms, while the bosses thrashed out technical plumbing issues. I gradually got more involved.

When joining the NMBM, we were trying to get the local authority and IOPSA to work closer together. I then started serving on the IOPSA EC Regional Committee as technical representative under chairman Rob Millar. He and his wife were a big influence on how successfully our region was operating. Taking over from him in March 2019 was not only a privilege, but an eye opener to the rest of the behind-the-scenes activities required to manage a region. Due to Rob`s health, I was delegated to attend two IOPSA NATEXEC meetings prior to becoming Regional Chairman, at which time the picture became even bigger. On 23 June 2020 during the NATEXEC meeting held on-line, I was voted in as new President.”

The current state of the plumbing sector and Presidential mandate

“The plumbing profession in South Africa has come a long way in the last ten years or so, thanks to the efforts put in by the people involved in the industry. We are well on our way as far as improving perceptions is concerned, though we still have a lot to do. It is evident from the improvement in trade pass rates – of the assessments being done, albeit IOPSA assessments for designations or PIRB ones – that plumbers are starting to take their industry seriously again,” says Myburgh.

He points to the previous 20% pass rate (and 80% failure rate) which has now seen a full reversal to the current 80% pass rate (and only 20% failure rate). “I am not sure if the members are aware of the fact that IOPSA is involved on so many levels of the industry on a daily basis. We are not only involved with looking after our members’ interests, but are represented at SABS, Insurance forums, health and safety and much more.

“As the new President, I would like to ensure that the brilliant work done by the people that came before me is not undone. My mandate is to push forward in the general direction set out years ago, and considering that most of those diligent people are still involved that will be the easy part. There are one or two areas in which I would like to make a personal impact – but that we will only come later, after first learning the ropes of this new challenge. I am confident that I will be able to contribute to this organisation and its members.”

He says he is immensely attuned to the enormous evolution that IOPSA has been involved in over the years: “IOPSA, as a whole, has taken huge steps to ‘owning’ our industry. There is not a single part of IOPSA that has been affected by the organisation’s evolution from being a totally voluntary body to the professional institution it has become. You can look around you, on a daily basis: people are talking about plumbing! We have our own social media platforms, for searches, comments, finding members – the mind boggles. Our apprentices are being trained by IOPSA-accredited facilities, using training material put together by competent people from within our industry.

“IOPSA is the current service provider for audits of PIRB COCs, including the training of the Compliance Auditors to equip them with the soft skills to upskill the plumber being audited in the field. We have well-established regions with individual Excos tending to members’ interests; we host Plumbers Evenings that now include invaluable technical content from which they can acquire CPD (Continuing Professional Development) credits. Our national office (Edenvale) can deal with any query at any time, whether it be the Executive Director himself or any other staff member, on issues as diverse as membership, marketing or training – you name it, the list goes on.”

Big boots to fill

“Our outgoing President, Lea Smith, had a legacy of big boots to try and fill. Lea has devoted a large part of the past number of years setting our industry on a path to improve not only the trade, but the people involved in it. He has the knack of approaching things differently and to ‘box them away’ in his own way. By doing this he and the IOPSA team have been set up to be successful. It is now up to me, backed by the team (fortunately still including him) to take up this challenge and continue the path set out for our industry. Thanks to the hard work of people like him, I do not need to reinvent the wheel, just to put my shoulder to the wheel and push forward,” says Myburgh.

On a personal note, he says he tries to squeeze in as much as possible in his spare time “but in reality that spare time is limited”.

“When I do get the opportunity, I love golf (not that good at it yet, but still love it) and enjoy fishing. Otherwise I enjoy quiet time (when it is available), watching the occasional movie, but ultimately I end up in my office again – working on a webinar or something with a deadline,” he says. 

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