Business fills HE training gaps

Business, fills, HE, training, gaps, hr, Production Management Institute, PMI, John BothaBusiness in South Africa has been forced to go it alone and train for its own needs due to the lack of work ready graduates


John Botha, executive director for strategy at Production Management Institute (PMI), Adcorp’s training company, says HEIs are more concerned with conferring qualifications than producing graduates equipped with the skills needed for them to be effective in their jobs.

“The general lack of relevance of higher education qualifications is unmistakable if one looks at the large numbers of vacancies in higher skilled jobs across private and public companies on the one hand, and, high numbers of unemployed graduates on the other,” says Botha.

“As a result, corporate South Africa is turning to its own training academies to develop the skills it needs,” he says, citing Standard Bank’s Global Leadership Centre, the Tiger Brands Training Academy, the Altech Academy and Adcorp’s recently-launched Leadership Academy as examples.

“Here, training is taking place according to the demands and the strategic objectives of the business.”

“The work that is also being done by business to develop leadership skills should not be overlooked. Despite the national emphasis on succession plans and sustainability, the fact is that lack of leadership threatens the sustainability of both public and private sector organisations.”

Botha says the progress around engineering skills training in South Africa presents a model that higher education should aim to replicate across all disciplines.

“The gaps were defined and structures were put into place to close those gaps. In this way, a comprehensive training system for engineering artisans, as well as technicians and engineers, was established, with the Artisan Development Technical Task Team (ADTTT) playing a major role in this achievement.

“Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and Universities of Technology (UoT) delivering qualifications at NQF levels 4 and 5 are generally better aligned to industry. The further up the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) we go, the less relevant the qualifications seem to be,” says Botha.

“Universities offer programmes that are generated by academics and have no meaningful bearing on the needs of employers. This production of generic qualifications may produce graduates with basic knowledge but does not produce potential employees with the attributes that are relevant to industry.”

Consequently, says Botha, business is reticent to employ new graduates because the qualifications they present do not indicate competence.

“Employers want to know how a candidate will apply the knowledge that their qualification suggests he or she has; how a candidate will manifest her skills in the workplace.

“PMI introduced the Integrated Application Project (IAP) into all its training xx years ago. The IAP is a real-scenario case study prepared by the learner-employee and signed off by his or her manager as part of a formal process. The IAP demonstrates how the employee has applied theoretical learning and delivered value to the business.

“At a graduation ceremony last week, we conferred qualifications on over 200 graduates from a range of different companies. Every graduate walked away with their certificate as well as their IAP, making their qualification 100% portable.”

Botha concedes that business schools at universities are playing an important role in higher skills and leadership development.

“However, typically, the relationship remains between the individual and the university, yet what we need are partnerships on a large scale – between a university and a business, or business sector, or professional association.

“On Sunday the higher education and training department announced a partnership between national treasury, the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and a number of municipalities around training mid-level financial administrators in municipalities. This is the kind of intervention we need to see taking place at higher education levels and across different sectors.”

Botha says measurement and monitoring of higher education skills in South Africa is also not taking place in the way that it should be.

“The National Learners' Records Database (NLRD) –the electronic management information system for education – should be answering many more questions than it currently is. Big questions like: ‘how many chemical engineers or how many call centre operators do we have in South Africa right now?’ cannot be answered, and that is a problem from the national planning perspective. Effectively, we are planning in the dark.”

Botha adds that the lack of readily-available information on skills in South Africa is a deterrent for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

“An international investor simply cannot establish what kinds and levels of skills the South African labour market offers.”

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
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