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SA is not training workers'

19/07/2007 09:54 - (SA)

Cape Town - Despite South Africa's serious skills shortages and high unemployment, the country is still among the lowest ranks of those training workers to improve performance.

And some of the management decisions taken - like appointing the best engineer to a management post are often poorly thought through and can see a company lose the benefits of a great engineer and create a bad manager.

The challenges are significant; despite a strong economy with rapid growth not enough jobs have been created to serve as a serious dent in 40% unemployment (Iraq at 60% unemployment is one of the few countries with worse statistics).

Recently the Department of Home Affairs announced 34 825 work permits for skilled foreigners in 53 job categories ranging from agricultural economists to civil engineers, bioengineers, mechatronics and autotronics technicians to welders.

With massive infrastructural development ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, economists say more strains will show.

Yet research by the World Bank's Investment Climate Survey shows that South Africa trains only 44.6% of skilled workers, compared to 77.3% of skilled workers receiving ongoing training in Brazil, 69.1% in China, 55% in India and 78.9% in Poland.

It found too that individuals who receive additional training are valued more by companies, they tend to earn a third more than those who do not receive training.

It also found that only a quarter of small and medium businesses put staff through additional training, this has serious implications because according to the Department of Finance, half of new small businesses are service providers and account for more than 70 % of total employment.

What does this lack of properly trained staff mean? Research by the University of Cape Town notes that in the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan area sectors that complain they cannot find enough skilled staff include furniture (57% of firms surveyed), clothing (40%), food and beverages (35.7%), information technology (43%), tourism (42%) and retail 21%. Construction, which according to the Department of Finance is the strongest-growing sector of the economy at an annual average rate of 12.1 % could barely meet half of its skills needs (45%), which holds serious ramifications for the massive amount of construction on the cards for the next few years.

Corporate and public sector executives trying to meet the shortage of managers, sometimes take from one area and devalue it, to try and prop up another.

Beatrice Attrill who helps facilitate Johannesburg training organisation, AstroTech's new and very popular, Specialist or Technical Person to Manager course says some "specialists are shoved into management and hate it. Some of the key problems from group input on the course are that many find it enormously difficult to let go of their specialist area and to delegate and trust other people."