Getting to grips with the skills shortage challenge
“South Africa’s unemployment rate of 27.7% in the second quarter of 2017 is the highest since 2003. This translates into 6.18 million unemployed, a figure that can only be reduced through sustainable development, which is underpinned by quality education,” says Innovative Staffing Solutions MD, Arnoux Maré.
Maré says although South Africa is the second largest economy in Africa and has made significant strides over the past decade, it continues to be one of the most unequal societies globally.
Gini index estimates from the World Bank rank South Africa as the most unequal country in terms of income distribution. Statistics South Africa reports that the richest 20% of the population account for more than 65% of consumption while the bottom 20% account for less than 3%.
“This situation is exacerbated by an education system that is characterised by a high drop-out rate of high-school learners and a curriculum that does not deliver the knowledge and skills young people need to enter the job market,” he continues.
This scenario is likely to be compounded in the years ahead as the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution – characterised by fast-paced technological progress combined with other socio-economic and demographic changes – requires a different set of skills from the workforce.
Maré adds the root of unemployment is not only due to a lack of jobs, but also to a poorly educated and unskilled workforce.
“In some instances, corporate South Africa is unable to fill various positions with adequately skilled people. While there is an obvious shortage of skills in highly skilled professions such as engineering, accounting and finance, there is an even greater dearth of skills in the semi-skilled job arena.”
He proposes that one way for companies to address the skills gap is to outsource their skills requirements to an organisation such as Innovative Staffing Solutions, which handles workforce requirements on behalf of its clients.
“At Innovative Staffing Solutions, we contractually employ our clients’ staff on a permanent basis. This means we take over a client’s drivers, hospitality workers or farm workers by reinstating them as permanent ISS employees, but they continue to work for said client. In exchange, employees receive benefits they may not have received previously, while the client’s work force needs are carefully managed, such as, finding suitable staff and dealing with disciplinary issues.”
“Key to what we offer our clients is ensuring outsourced people are part of a process of continual learning and growth. We focus specifically on upskilling people working in the unskilled and semi-skilled sectors, creating opportunities for further education, on-the-job training, mentorship programmes and promotion.”
The outsourcing approach allows a business to concentrate on its core business while its outsourcing partner focuses on fulfilling the company’s workforce requirements. “Few responsibilities stretch businesses as thin as the hiring and firing process. While it may seem simple on the surface, finding the right employees can be taxing on many different levels. Getting help with these challenges not only impacts positively on the bottom line (with a saving of up to 60% on operational costs), it helps business owners to focus on the more entrepreneurial aspects of their businesses and less on the back-office daily operational matters,” says Maré.
His company keeps itself updated on scarce skills trends to help inform human resource planning and development for its clients. “We have an in-depth understanding of the employee management landscape. We keep ourselves abreast of the regulatory environment and develop solid relationships with trade unions and other relevant bodies such as the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).”
“This is a powerful way in which corporate South Africa – through companies such as ourselves – can help address the skills shortage. If our clients no longer require the services of the outsourced staff members, they will not find themselves out of work. They will be placed at another client or upskilled for a different opportunity. This makes for a sustainable workforce that is assured of continued employment coupled with acquiring new, and often more relevant, skills. By moving them into new roles, opportunities are thus created for more people to enter the job market and to further benefit from improved proficiencies,” concludes Maré.
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