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       PRESS RELEASE

Government increases staff training as 2010 nears and delivery increases

16 November 2009

Government has dramatically increased staff training as it pushes delivery to communities and ensures preparation for the 2010 World Soccer cup.

Liza van Wyk, CEO of training companies, AstroTech and BizTech, two of South Africa’s largest training companies that train more executives per year than Wits Business School, as an example, said, “Government in particular is showing more interest in training, followed by parastatals, some municipalities and provincial governments especially those in Mpumalanga and Limpopo.”

AstroTech and BizTech which train nationwide and in some southern African countries said strong interest was coming from Namibian and Botswana too. “It does not mean that those economies are improving, but rather that those governments and our own recognise the importance of a skilled population to drive development and economic growth.”

But she said government was not doing enough to help companies extend training budgets and get rapid tax breaks to educating their staff. “The Skills Levy is so bureaucratic and time consuming that many companies, particularly small and medium-sized ones, don’t bother trying to access it and the same problems exist with SETA’s. Instead of government raising taxes, we agree with economists that there need to be more tax breaks to stimulate economic growth and training is a core area.”

Last week Sanlam chief economist Jac Laubscher told parliament’s select committee on finance that taxes were too high and that government spending would need to be cut. He said the tax to GDP burden had risen considerably above government benchmarks of 25 percent to 32 percent and compared to an average of 18 percent for other middle-income countries.

Government is considering raising taxes because expenditure is high and tax revenue this year has collapsed by R70bn. Laubscher said South Africa’s bureaucracy was too big and that salaries alone now constituted 57 percent of payments.

Van Wyk said that although there was criticism of a swollen public sector, “at least it is making significant investments in human capital; government is the largest single skills trainer in this country, its contribution to the further education of those already in the workplace is significant.”

She said they had a “record three months in June, July and August, especially for inhouse courses so businesses save on accommodation and travelling costs for employees and get teams to become quickly empowered, instead of sending them one at a time to training.”

Van Wyk said that demand was picking up so strongly that they had introduced Van Wyk said they knew that training was a major cost for companies and very often it was difficult for them to ensure that they got appropriate returns from their training investments.

She said that because interest in training was growing so strongly they had launched a range of training packages especially for government at all levels and major corporates which could give cost savings ranging from 37% to 47% of training costs. “We believe these packages are the first of their kind anywhere in the world. We are calling them Train 100, Train 200, Train 300, Train 500 and Train 1000.”

The packages will enable companies to purchase mass bookings at substantially lower rates and provide more flexibility around staff training, “so instead of human resources managers having to plea for funds at various times of the year, they can set an amount aside and know the number of people they want to send on courses, then send when and as they need without number or time restrictions resulting in considerable time and cost savings”.

AstroTech and BizTech offer more than 100 courses, the widest basket of any training group. Most actively sought courses this year included any improving financial literacy of staff , the skills of managers especially when it came to dealing with staff and project management.

Van Wyk said they were seeing significant training demands coming from poorer provinces such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape, with the Western Cape also showing a marked increase in skills training requests.

“The soccer world cup in 2010 is already providing a significant boost to training budgets, but we anticipate that there will be a marked upward surge from March, as the cup draws close and people begin planning events, improve customer service and generally gear up for a massive influx of almost half a million fans and the injection they will bring to the economy.”

She said the AstroTech Conference Centre was “already receiving many enquiries and bookings for 2010 with foreign and local groups booking conferences and training programmes.

“We will dress up the venue to celebrate the World Cup too; we’ll dress waiters in soccer outfits, have big screens in our major conference venues and have pitch markings on the floors as well as other events. We have also increased the size of our parking because we anticipate overflow crowds for some events.”

FOR INTERVIEWS:

LIZA VAN WYK, CEO ASTROTECH 011 582 3200 cell: 082 466 8975 or liza@astrotech.co.za www.astrotech.co.za
Issued by: Charlene Smith Communications Pty Limited 011 646 7637 mediaonline@global.co.za