A fast growing economy with dramatic skills shortages has seen companies and government boost training budgets – a new strong trend is to bring more trainers in-house to minimise time away from work.
Major Johannesburg-based training company AstroTech has seen its in house courses treble in the past year. Leanne Whelan, client relationship manager for AstroTech and who is responsible for booking inhouse courses for AstroTech says the courses also tend to be 34% cheaper, if attended by 10 or more people, than those held at public venues.
“There is a rapidly growing demand for these courses because instead of three days of concentrated training at a hotel or conference centre, we are able to tailor make a course to fit the company needs. We can stagger the days if necessary. We don’t encourage having shorter courses – if you’re going to spend money on training then rather get the full benefit. We would rather stagger days; training can take place on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday, or three consecutive Fridays, as examples.”
She says too that many companies approach training without fully thinking through their needs. “They might see a course advertised and say that looks good and phone to book it but I’ll say to them, what exactly are the skills needs you want to improve? That starts a process of the company going back and more completely analysing what they need which helps us design something that gives them most value for their rand.
“For example, if they want the Business Communications and Report Writing course, I’ll ask them exactly what sort of reports they compile, so we can tailor make the course to best suit them. We have more than 60 courses on offer, so sometimes if we take a module from one and another from another and add it to the course they initially wanted we can give them the best possible product. A popular course is Management for New Managers, but each company has different skills it wants new managers to attain – they may be technical people adjusting to people management, so we draw modules from other courses. The company might want them to improve financial or corporate governance skills and we can add those to form an ideal package. Very often people are promoted because they are doing well but they may lack the skills to be a manager, so we try and assist with that.”
Whelan says that training often reveals gaps in knowledge or capacity “and so many companies will ask us to come back and do more training focussed on a specific area where more information is needed. Or run the same course for another group of employees to ensure more uniform positive changes across the organisation.”
Whelan says the most popular courses for inhouse training this year have been, “Technical Person to Manager especially with engineering companies, as well as Project Management for Non Project Managers and Finance for NonFinancial Managers, and the High Performance PA - that course has rocketed ahead this year as companies place greater emphasis on improving the skills of support people.”
She says Johannesburg and Pretoria see the highest concentration of courses, followed by Cape Town and Durban with similar demands, and that is followed, somewhat surprisingly by the Northern Cape and Bloemfontein.
“We try to go the extra mile for clients, there was a demand for training from a company in Douglas which is about 100km from Kimberley, but they wanted bilingual course material. All of our course material is in English; so we got one of our staff to translate all the material into Afrikaans too.”
Whelan says those sectors most interested in inhouse training include government departments, cellphone networks, banks and the IT sector, Eskom and corporates especially those in engineering, construction and medical aids.
Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech said, “when I started this business almost a decade ago it was by recognising a demand from corporates for training, initially they were happier to send staff out for training to venues such as hotels. Now however, an increasing number want staff to remain in the office so they can check emails or respond to phone calls during tea or lunch breaks so the company experiences minimum down time, but too chat about the benefits of the course pervades through the company and sees more positive results for the organisation faster.
“It’s a very exciting trend and one we are glad to be leading."
AstroTech is a major South African training organisation based in Johannesburg. It targets executives and managers in the public and private sector for training in management, people skills, information technology and project management. Each year close to 3 000 people take part in more than 60 courses in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Many more receive specialist in-house training.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
LIZA VAN WYK, CEO AstroTech 011 453 5291 or
 Minister of Public Enterprises, Alec Erwin, as reported in Financial Mail, July 2007: “SA state-owned enterprises plan to invest R250bn over the next five years. Ramos's boss, Erwin, said recently, ‘by any account this is a massive and unprecedented programme for the public sector [and] is not the totality of public-sector investment, which over the next three years totals... R420bn.’"