Ticking boxes undermines B-BBEE’s quest for sound skills development

Triple E Training is a leading provider of quality adult basic education and training.
Triple E Training is a leading provider of quality adult basic education and training.

Skills development has been identified as one of the areas in which Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) is failing. This is despite the prominence that skills development and training is given in the B-BBEE Codes because transformation starts with appropriate human resource development.

Companies’ B-BBEE levels reduce by an entire level if they fail to meet the sub-minimum targets for skills development. This is despite how compliant they are in other measured elements of B-BBEE – such is the importance of skills development in the codes.

Skills development and training empowers employees to perform their jobs to the best of their ability and rise up the ranks to play a more meaningful role in the growth of their companies and the economy. Importantly, proper training should also contribute towards the personal growth and development of individuals and, in this way, also make a positive contribution to society at large.

“Unfortunately, many companies are still ‘ticking boxes’ when it comes to training and skills development. They are training for just the sake of it to simply meet their scorecard requirements. This is opposed to ensuring that people who really require skills are being selected for appropriate training. Their training initiatives are, therefore, not having the intended impact – a problem that has again been brought to the fore by government considering the slow rate of economic transformation,” Marco Maree, Expert Training and Development Advisor of Triple E Training, says.

Triple E Training is a leading provider of adult literacy and numeracy training to industry. The accredited training provider’s skills development programmes are geared at equipping people with workplace literacy skills. Also referred to as functional literacy, these are skills people need to perform their jobs at optimal levels. They are also used in just about every facet of life outside of the world of work in their communities and society at large.

Box ticking

There are many ways that companies “tick boxes”. This includes by spending money on superfluous training that will not improve the core skills of their workforce. There have even been instances where companies have intentionally conducted training that provides scant or no opportunity for employees to improve their circumstances.

Employees are deliberately being held back because there is no clear career development path and rationale for the training in the first place. In extenuating circumstances, companies have even been caught simulating training without actually transferring skills to employees just to improve their B-BBEE scorecards. It is expected that this will become a major focus of the new B-BBEE advisory panel.

Yet, South Africa is grappling with a severe skills crisis. This includes for skilled tradespeople who hold a qualification at a National Qualification Framework level. Despite being proficient in their jobs, many young adults are being deprived of an opportunity to attain such a qualification simply because they do not have literacy and numeracy skills. They will struggle to grasp the technical content presented in vocational training and to write their trade tests in the language of business and learning. There are adult literacy and numeracy training programmes geared specifically at preparing individuals for vocational training and more companies should be taking advantage of this opportunity.

At the same time, there is also a need to fast-track the upskilling of the many unskilled employees who perform general roles that are gradually being replaced by technology. Their jobs are at risk in a modern economy that is increasingly relying on skilled and experienced employees.

Key challenges

The changes that the economy has undergone since 1994 are also fuelling persistently high unemployment in the country, especially among black youth and black women. These individuals need to be equipped with at least the most basic skills that will help them to improve their prospects of securing employment. This is particularly relevant to community training interventions that companies are supposed to undertake as part of their Corporate Social Investment initiatives and Social-Labour Plans. It is imperative that these projects are undertaken correctly.

Appropriate individuals need to be selected for training and placed at the correct adult literacy and numeracy training levels to ensure a successful outcome. The private sector has a prominent role to play in helping government to break the back of illiteracy in poor areas of the country. It is an enormous challenge that cannot be addressed by those adult basic education and training programmes that are being delivered by municipalities, non-government organisations and universities, alone.

In turn, high unemployment and lack of appropriate skills are fuelling growing inequality. To address this, South Africa needs to focus on creating skilled jobs for the poor. Adult literacy and numeracy training is the first step towards upskilling these citizens of the country for the jobs of the future. The ultimate outcome of formal and structured adult literacy and numeracy training is to prepare individuals to embark on a journey of lifelong learning. This is in addition to instilling a passion for learning for participants in adult literacy and numeracy training programmes

More than just scorecards

However, an investment in training also benefits employers in many other ways than just contributing points to their B-BBEE scorecards. These are also further incentives for companies to invest more in human resource development and to take this requirement of the B-BBEE codes more seriously. Adult literacy and numeracy training, for example, improves productivity, efficiency and accuracy of workers.

These advantages can be measured through a reduction in waste; shorter times taken to complete tasks; and improved customer satisfaction, among others. There is also a strong correlation between literacy and health and safety in the workplace and on worksites – an important advantage for the construction, mining and manufacturing industries in particular.

“While skills development has once again been placed under the spotlight by the authorities, it is important to note that there are many companies that take skills development and training very seriously. It is a vital component of their human capital. Their approach, therefore, transcends merely training to gain points for their B-BBEE scorecard. They are investing in building strong teams that are contributing to economic growth and inclusivity. There is a lot that can be gleaned from their approach that also continues to challenge their training service providers to innovate and break perceived boundaries in skills development,” Maree concludes.

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