Skills Development: Diagnose, Plan, Act

Now that we have a clearer understanding of the benefits awaiting those organisations able to embrace Skills Development as a non-negotiable BEE compliance strategy, our next endeavours should revolve around diagnosing, planning and then jumping into skills development action mode.

Current Status and Future Planning

Inaugurating your skills development strategy should commence with a ‘’where are we now’’ exercise, aka the Skills Audit. While the word “audit” may bring about nightmares of black and white suits, staring at you unapprovingly from behind their laptops while you are trying to make excuses for gaps of noncompliance, this reality check is necessary for you to move forward.

An audit is necessary to provide actual figures and metrics to compare with required BEE targets. The pain (and fines) for not complying is far worse than coming to terms with the BEE voids in the company.

The skills-based audit exercise will also amplify the exact training requirements of your organisation as to align future spending to those areas where maximum gains can be earned regarding BEE points and also monetary benefits in the forms of rebates and grants.

Once the skills needs analysis is complete, the structuring of your Skills Development plan can begin. Noted, this may be quite a lengthy exercise of setting up learnerships, creating internship programmes, designing short courses and establishing bursary initiatives. While there is no A for effort awarded during this stage, the “BEE” scored received will be well worth the struggle.

Say YES to the Skills Development Element

Considering the economic “almost” recession we find ourselves in these days, money certainly does not grow on trees especially for the SME business sector. Hence, you need the most “BEE bang for your buck” when investing in skills development and learning activities

The YES initiative aligns perfectly with the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice and by participating in this programme your company can significantly improve its BEE Rating.

By achieving YES targets either by offering internships to unemployed youths or with the sponsorship of unemployed youth stipends at another company, one can move up one recognition level on scorecard. For the overachievers exceeding the YES minimum requirements by achieving double on the target, will result in moving up two recognition levels on the scorecard.

Follow the Leaders

When in doubt, just follow the leaders. A skills development strategy reaches beyond traditional in-house training and development mechanisms. Some organisations have made tremendous inroads towards maximising their efforts in the Skills Development Element of the BEE scorecard, during the last couple of years:

1) Learnership to Permanent

  • South African Breweries is empowering youngsters through learnerships and training programmes as per the guidelines of the BEE Act, but with a twist. These learners are in fact offered permanent employment long before their learnerships come to an end, which enable them to start contributing to the SAB business environment and provides them immediate job security.
  • These learnerships are open to all graduates with a B average attained at university. The SAB Learnership programme is a perfect example of how business in South Africa can create new pathways for full-time employment.

2) Secondary and Tertiary Bursaries

  • Sponsoring employees or non-employees via bursaries to complete a tertiary qualification is deemed as contributions towards the Skills Development Element and improve overall BEE status. Paying for a black individual’s secondary education also counts towards skills development points.
  • Old Mutual established their School Grant Fund in 2015 together with the Public Investment Corporation and the Government Employees Pension Fund as outside partners. In the three years of operation, this fund has awarded over 60 bursaries to previously disadvantaged individuals.
  • Nestle boosts their skills development score by offering bursary schemes for employee’s children, to study at an accredited university up to undergraduate level.

3) Upskilling the Community

  • Medium-sized enterprises are often subject to the challenge of capacity availability where internship or learnership intakes are concerned. Fortunately, the skills development pillar allows for companies to earn points when involved in community upskilling projects.
  • T-Systems has made a sizable investment in the form of a Digital Learning Centre in Hazyview, with the aim to develop critical IT, English and Tourism skills within members of the community in Hazyview, as well as surrounding areas.

4) Funding Independent Training, Mentorship & Incubator Programmes

  • Sometimes its just easier to give money and be done with it. Well, you can still earn Skills Development points by providing funds to Training Platforms and Mentorship Programmes such as those offered by the South African Institute for Entrepreneurship (SAIE).
  • Companies like ABSA, Anglo American, Astrapak and Coronation allocate funding to the SAIE for the development of training materials, courses, workshops and mentorship alliances in critical areas such as education, agriculture, information technology and enterprise development.
  • Heineken contributes to its skills development goals by sponsoring candidates to partake in entrepreneurial training and development hubs (incubators) running for a ten month period each year.

5) Think Global, Act Local

Quite a fitting tagline for Investec’s SATRep’s Global Exposure programme to train and develop young entrepreneurs by exposing them to global business thinking practices. Selected applicants are sent on a week-long trip to an international destination to meet and engage with influencers from leading companies in a specific business field or industry.

These exposure ventures aim to provide youngsters with an opportunity to experience international business firsthand and return with global insights, learning innovation, potential funding prospects and collaborative partnerships to take their businesses forward.

6) Work Readiness Programmes

You don’t have to be in training to provide training. Global consulting firm Mazars is mostly known for their accounting, risk management and actuarial consulting services. However, they are making a valuable contribution to skills development and learning with their Job Readiness Training Programme which offers an extensive 60-day course to unemployed youths as a method to prepare them for their future world of work. They present programmes in Durban, Gauteng and Cape Town.

Negative Narratives into Positive Prospects

According to the Deloitte Human Capital Trends report of 2017, only 28% of organisations in South Africa are actively involved in skills development initiatives. The concept of BEE is often subject to negativity, apathy and a reluctance to participate to such an extent that its positive prospects in terms of business sustainability are often overlooked or ignored.

To overcome our adversities of poverty, unemployment and economic regression, embracing skills development as a viable solution to create prosperity should definitely be on the 2019 New Year’s Resolution list for businesses in South Africa.

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