SMEs urged to adopt in-house vocational training programmes to plug critical skills gaps


Great long-term potential lies in introducing skills development initiatives especially for small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in South Africa.

This according to Richard Rayne, CEO of iLearn – a leading South African learning solutions-based business, that supports companies to optimise skills development by offering work-based Learnerships. Yet, Rayne says not enough SMEs offer upskilling programmes to employees. According to research by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and the Banking Association of Southern Africa, the SME sector is estimated to contribute between 35-45 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 50-60 percent to the labour force.  

 “There are endless advantages to upskilling the workforce, especially in areas of national significance, that’s really where we need it most. SMEs specifically need to start seeing the value. An educated, equipped workforce means the business can move to greater heights, which in-turn has a positive effect on the economy,” he says. 

Rayne encourages SMEs to consider introducing skills development initiatives, and when doing so to develop a Workplace Skills Plan (WSP) and Annual Training Report (ATR). He explains that these will allow employers to reap the benefits, which includes achieving compliance, earning financial rebates and adding strategic value to a business. Accredited short courses can also easily be incorporated into a skills development plan.

The benefits for SMEs:

  • Tax benefits – investing in Learnerships provides businesses with the opportunity to capitalise on various reimbursements, grants and tax rebates.
  • Plug the skills gaps – skills shortages hamper business operations and service delivery, therefore upskilling employees is vital. A business with an engaged workforce develops employees and helps the business to grow. 
  • Improve performance – provide staff with continuous training and support their ongoing learning to boost competence and confidence and develop their careers.
  • The key need-to-knows for a WSP and ATR:
  • Know what you need – identify skills and understand the gaps, it ensures effective planning and makes implementing relevant training programmes possible.
  • Include the team – the success of a training programme depends on the employees’ attitude, get them on-board, consult, involve and listen to their needs.
  • Individual plans – develop clear-cut plans that help the employer and employees to clarify expectations and manage growth.
  • Success measurement – use the ATR as a tool to reflect on the value of the training. It helps to map progress, identify gaps, focus your training budget and address skills challenges.
  • Stay ahead – plan the WSP ahead of time to ensure the organisation stays within in its training budget. 

“Alongside unemployment, South Africa is struggling dismally with skills shortages in scarce skills areas. It’s vital that we provide the necessary training to address this and move our country forward. Ultimately, SMEs have the largest potential to upskill SA’s workforce,” Rayne says.

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