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Skills training and conferences have bumper year with 2010 bonanza expected

29 October 2009

Despite a general slowdown in the economy, skills training, especially that done inhouse and conferencing, saw record returns for South Africa’s largest skills training company.

And now it has come up with a world-first that could help companies boost skills training, ensure better choices of courses for participants and help them save money.

Speaking before a conference in Johannesburg today (Friday) Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech and BizTech which cater for executive, management and business support staff including those in information technology said, “despite a general slowdown we managed to achieve an all-time record number of in-house delegates trained this year. This means that our clients recognise the difference our training can have on the effectiveness of their staff in the workplace and are willing to invest in skills training.”

She said however, that companies were still more likely to send top level managers on courses than business support staff, “and that is where we see the real skills gap happening.”

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 across all sectors they were launching a range of training packages, “Which we believe 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 and Van Wyk said, “We believe this positions us as the number one training provider in the country in terms of programme selection.” Most actively sought courses this year included any improving financial literacy of staff, corporate governance and improved the skills of managers especially when it came to dealing with staff, finances and project management.

The group which also owns the AstroTech conference centre in Parktown (formally the Liberty Life conference centre) said they had seen a doubling in bookings year-on-year since 2008 and 2010 promised to be a bumper year. Van Wyk said: “2010 is also already looking very promising with a number bookings focusing on the World Cup.”

Van Wyk said although South Africa is faced with many challenges at present, research recently published by the British government for investors, listed South Africa fourth as a key market for global investors.

She said too: “Companies are also facing many challenges at this point in time. Finance is more difficult and more expensive to come by; markets are shrinking and retrenchments common. Yet, again, it is not all bad news, South Africa’s entrepreneurial levels almost doubled last year from five percent to eight percent according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and since small and medium businesses account for the majority of employment; this is an extremely positive sign for job creation. It is encouraging to see people taking responsibility for their own employment.”

Van Wyk reflected: “Individuals haven’t enjoyed the same sense of job security that they have been used to in days gone by. It has forced some people to re-evaluate feelings of entitlement and take a hard look at their own marketability and their role in determining their future development. While a company, a manager and an HR department can be there to give support, direction and encouragement, ultimately it is the individual’s responsibility to ensure their own development and the relevance of their skills and knowledge to the current demands of the workplace.

“We have seen a positive trend with leaders urging people to accept responsibility. We all saw it in the US with Barack Obama’s “Yes, we can!” election campaign and closer to home at the NEDLAC Annual Summit in September, Jacob Zuma recently chided the behaviour of certain striking sectors and urged a greater sense of social responsibility.”

LIZA VAN WYK, CEO ASTROTECH 011 582 3200 cell: 082 466 8975 or
Or contact: Charlene Smith, Charlene Smith Communications Pty Limited 082 495 8716