South Africa has a critical skills shortage and high unemployment at the same time. Latest figures show that unemployment has risen to 27.1%, but more critically youth unemployment (18 – 36 years) is 56% and black graduate unemployment is 68%. Availability of skilled talent is also an issue and the Manpower Group’s Talent Shortage Survey of 750 businesses in South Africa showed that in 2016, 34% of local employers had difficulty filling jobs which is up from 26% in 2014. With the lack of talent in the market, skills development is becoming even more important to develop the next tier of executives for the C-suite as part of succession planning. Is it also time to rethink business and employment models and possibly adopt approaches such as the German Dual System which combines on-the-job training and studying to help address our large unemployment? This is what we discussed at our recent HR Professionals Forum.

The session was led by Dionne Kerr, CEO of Siyakha Consulting and Deputy Chair of the Association of BEE Professionals. Dionne highlighted that if you don’t have the right people, then you won’t succeed as an organisation. She said that the government has created a unique environment to support skills development, but that corporate South Africa is not adequately partnering with government. Essentially with the national tax incentives linked to skills (National Skills Fund, Jobs Fund, SETAs), employers can claim back up to 120% and training could become a profit centre if managed effectively.

It’s time to rethink what a learning organisation looks like and grow talent internally, incentivise staff and stimulate innovation. By having a Management Development Programme across all levels of the organisation, you start developing and upskilling from the moment an employee joins your organisation. Each employee needs to have a career map developing capability and competence, allowing for better teamwork and creativity to feedback into the business. The investment into your staff becomes a joint collaboration with the South African government, you optimise your BEE scorecard, and introduce an environment of functional leaders, so that excellence becomes our norm.

We then heard from Dr Floris Prinsloo and Elizabeth Walters for the WC Government Apprenticeship Game Changer which launched is 2016 and is a key programme in the province. Skills development is not normally the mandate of a provincial government, but the Western Cape feels it needs a strong focus. Essentially the WC Government, has focused on three sectors and two enabling sectors in which to support skills development though apprenticeships. These include Oil and Gas, Tourism, Agri-Processing, Energy and ICT and Broadband. By partnering with TVET colleges, technical high schools, SETAs, and business, WC Government is creating a system to support artisanal candidates in work placement programmes and skills development training. We encourage you to look at the skills that WC Government is funding and developing in the presentation below and contact them if you would like to collaborate further.

Finally, Isabella Hlabangu, HOD: Training and CSR at the SA – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry shared more about their programme called the Commercial Advancement Training Scheme (CATS). Having been a candidate on the programme herself, Isabella highlighted the structured programme where candidates work in different departments across the business, while studying towards a Certificate in Business Administration which is also accredited in Germany. This two-year programme has been running successfully in Johannesburg and we, once again, encourage our members to consider this to enhance employment prospects in South Africa.