[Caption] Dr. Matthews Katjene, CEO of PsychWell, shared his knowledge and experience on the development of transferable skills with delegates at the 2016 FP&M Seta Skills Development Summit that took place at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Tshwane last week (25 to 26 August 2016). [Photo Credit: ShutterMonkey Productions]

Top South African professionals from various industries across South Africa addressed the country’s skills shortage at one of the biggest skills development conferences, the FP&M Seta Skills Development Summit 2016, held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Tshwane last week. Specific focus was drawn to the employable skills required of the youth in order to enter the workforce. Delegates shared their knowledge about skills development and were also urged to invest in the upskilling of their employees.

The 2016 FP&M Seta Skills Summit was abuzz with business owners, high-level managers and key executives from the corporate and private sector, all of whom shared their knowledge and expertise on business development. The latest skills training trends were a hot topic with a great deal of emphasis placed on the portability of employee skills (ie, the ability of a skill to have more than one function). Hosted by Achiever Magazine and the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority (FP&M Seta), this year’s event boasted a collection of interactive workshops presented by leading trainers and experts. Delegates were provided with valuable knowledge on how to get the most out of each employee by investing and implementing skills development programmes.

The programme director for the two-day event, Peter Ndoro, kicked-off proceedings by highlighting the importance of skills development in South Africa in moulding the economic future of the country. Ndoro mentioned that a skilled workforce is the ticket to overturning the country’s poor unemployment rate. Delegates were encouraged to take full advantage of the valuable workshops on offer by tapping into the knowledge and expertise of the exciting line-up of speakers.

In his opening keynote address at the Skills Summit, Thabo Mashongoane, the Director of the National Skills Authority in the Department of Higher Education, explained that the continuous advancement of South Africa’s skills development programmes and initiatives is critical to ensure positive economic growth. He emphasised that both the public and private sector should work together to develop solutions that will address the skills shortage amongst the country’s youth. While mentioning that skills development programmes should be focussing on upskilling the youth, he emphasised that people of all economic backgrounds should benefit from the initiatives.

The necessity of upskilling the youth of South Africa was reiterated by Wean Minnie, National Skills Fund CFO, who mentioned that the country’s youth represents around 55% of the workforce. He stressed that despite the large representation in the country’s labour force, the country still faces a high unemployment rate amongst its youth. Minnie advised that the upskilling of employable skills of both young and old should be the main focus in order to shift the unemployed to being employed. He believes that community and occupational skills programmes hold the key to skills development as it offers enhancement opportunities to the unemployed youth, as well as young, up-and-coming working professionals.

Another thought-provoking aspect of skills development touched on by Dr. Matthews Katjene, PsychWell CEO, was the growth and management of skills in order to ensure long-term profitability and to positively impact on business strategy, -drivers and service delivery. He mentioned that there are various elements of skills that need to be considered in order for a development programme to make a meaningful contribution. He explained that skills needs to be portable, impactful and mobile in order to address the specific skills shortages and challenges in the market. Special attention was given to the ‘porting’ ability of skills, which refers to the portability and ability to be transferred or transformed, through training, into different value-adding competencies that can be utilised within various departments of an organisation. This allows an employee’s skillset to be most effectively managed in multiple organisational areas and functions.

Carol Govender, Education, Training and Development Officer at Rand Water, continued by emphasising that organisations have three avenues through which to supplement their skills shortages: locating the perfect candidate with all the necessary skills and experience; taking the risk by providing an under-qualified or less-experienced individual the opportunity to prove themselves; or, to train promising employees and foster the necessary skills required. She insisted that organisations must plan for employees’ careers in advance, even before they enter the organisation, with regards to skills development and growth. Thorough planning will also serve as a good indicator of the skill-level needed within the organisation.

“This year was one of the most insightful Skills Summits yet!” says Beverley Stone, Event Manager at Cape Media, organisers of the FP&M Seta Skills Development Summit. “The high-calibre speakers and fantastic networking opportunities made for an extremely exciting event. Platforms such as these, where business owners, high-level managers and key executives from the public and private sector come together to engage with dynamic skills development and training providers, are of the utmost importance for the future of South Africa. We are proud to play a role in the upskilling of the country’s labour force and look forward to an even bigger Summit in 2017.”