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Skills gap puts economy at risk

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Skills gap puts economy at risk

A majority of South Africans are concerned that the current matric syllabus is not preparing the youth for work.
This is among the findings from City & Guilds Group’s first Skills Confidence Report, an international study of 8 000 employees in South Africa, the UK, the US and India. The study measured, among other topics, the impact of skills gaps on the workplace and economy, how confident people feel about their skills and jobs, as well as other factors impacting future economic prospects.
Two-thirds (66%) of respondents agree that reducing the skills gap in South Africa is achievable if businesses open up more opportunities for young people to experience what it is like to work at a company, and almost half (46%) believe that creating apprenticeships and traineeships is the way to reduce the gap.
Skills gaps can significantly impact businesses’ productivity and bottom lines. As a result of skills gaps 46% of respondents say their organisations waste time, 42% say they waste money, and 46% say it makes their organisation less productive.
At a macro-economic level, skills gaps are affecting people’s confidence about future economic prospects. Across the board, the majority of respondents are worried about issues such as high youth unemployment (69%), and too few jobs being created to support the growing youth population (57%).
While education reforms are under way, fewer than a third (30%) of respondents are confident that the government is doing enough to tackle skills gaps. The majority of respondents (65%) are not confident that matric is preparing individuals for the workforce, and under half (48%) are confident that the qualification is relevant to the needs of employers. More than half of respondents (56%) are not confident that skills gaps are closing.
Despite concerns about the broad impact of the skills gap, South Africans believe that there is an opportunity for businesses to help future proof the economy.
“At the City & Guilds Group, we see first-hand how partnering with business to understand their needs can help establish learning courses that are relevant to the workplace,” says Chris Jones, chief executive of the City & Guilds Group. “Our experience shows us that by aligning education with the workplace needs we can enable people and organisations to develop their skills for personal and economic growth.
“While the development of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) by the South African government in terms of the Skills Development Act is progressing, it is not clear that these reforms will meet all employers’ needs,” says Jones. “Many in industry are concerned that this will add more red tape to learning, extend the required learning period, and have a negative result in reducing the immediate skills gap.”
While times are challenging for those looking for work, those employed recognise the need to up-skill for their own future. Only 1% of respondents were not actively developing their skills for the future, and only 3% said that no skills were important for their future career prospects.
“Training is important for South Africans, however the research shows us that there is no one size fits all,” says Jones.
For example, 81% of general employees preferred to learn on the job, compared to 75% of CEOs and senior leaders. Likewise, CEOs and senior leaders preferred to learn through free videos and online resources, compared to 30% of general employees and 28% of middle managers.
When asked about what skills would be most important their future career prospects in 10 years’ time, leadership skills topped the list (61%), followed by management skills (60%) and people skills (52%).