by Dylan James

Invest in skilled workers

Skills development is vital for business growth

Skills development is vital for business growth
Dylan James: director of the skills development summit

The organisation for economic co-operation and development was quoted as saying that “skills are the global currency of the 21st century”. Talent and its management is key to a company’s success and in order for a company to remain successful and competitive, the talent within the company needs to be managed, as well as improved upon, constantly.

For the vast majority of businesses in South Africa the biggest expense is the payroll of the people employed to operate, run and manage the business, and because salaries are such a large portion of a company’s turnover, it is vital this resource is utilised to the best of its ability. For this reason, skills development programmes need to be top of mind for companies when allocating budgets for the upcoming year in order to maximise their ‘return on investment’.

Economic uncertainty and instability have placed businesses across all sectors under increasing financial strain, and many have likely had to adjust their budgets as a result. Usually when this happens, the marketing and training budgets are the first to go. While this might seem like a simple cost to cut, the consequences of not providing training to employees means that the business is effectively not investing in its future success.

With the constant introduction of new technology and information, businesses need to ensure that their employees are trained accordingly so that they are equipped to handle the changes effortlessly, and continue contributing productively towards the business’ success.

Businesses are however being negligent about skills development and are not doing enough to create the conditions for innovation, productivity and probability within their companies. This unfortunately also has a knock-on effect to our economy.

South Africa’s high unemployment and lack of skills available amongst the country’s workforce is one of its biggest challenges to economic growth.

For South Africa to maintain its ability to be globally competitive and grow its economy, it needs renewed commitment by both the private and public sectors to nurture and grow the skills of its workforce, in order to foster meaningful employment.

The National Development Plan (NDP), Vision 2030 document highlights that the key to sustainable employment and economic growth in South Africa is through education and skills development. It also highlights the need for the private sector to work with government in order to ensure that the objectives of the New Growth Path are achieved. While many graduates have the knowledge from their studies, many companies are hesitant to employ them due to their lack of experience or skills, and instead tend to favour individuals who have work experience. This way the company doesn’t have to spend as much resources and money on training graduates to the level the company requires.

One of the ways government proposes working together in order to sustain employment and economic growth is the proposed youth wage subsidy. The scheme, announced by the government in 2011 and budgeted to the tune of R5 billion, will pay up to R12 000 of the annual wages of young first-time workers. 

As it stands currently, South Africa doesn’t have the skills force it needs to grow the economy. While the majority of individuals come into the workplace skilled, businesses aren’t always necessarily developing these skills. 

For individuals to grow, and in turn for companies to succeed, businesses need to plan and budget for internal training in order to constantly develop and upskill their staff to ensure that they are well-matched to the regularly changing skills level.

Employers are therefore responsible for creating a skilled and capable workforce that contributes to the benefits and opportunities of both the company and country’s economic expansion.

Effective training methods could include workshops with up-to-date industry developments and informal learning practices such as mentoring and coaching programmes with members of the company who possess vital skills. Another training method is industry related events and conferences, such as the Skills Development Summit, which offers networking opportunities with individuals in the same field of work and the opportunity to learn from guest-speakers, who provide valuable and current insight into specific industries.

From a skills retention perspective, another key consideration when planning your company’s skills development schedule is to encourage participation in initiatives that recognise, showcase and reward talented individuals in a company. Not only will this demonstrate to employees that the company values their contribution and progress, but it could also inspire and motivate fellow employees to increase their knowledge and contribution to the company in order for them to be recognised.

 

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