Despite the massive skills shortage facing the industry, many South African companies still look for excuses not to invest in training and development.
That's the word from Dan Ellappa, chief executive officer of the e-Skills Academy of South Africa, who says the institution was strongly positioned to train and successfully place up to 200 “job-ready” unemployed graduates this year and to make a material contribution to combating a demand for ICT professionals that is expected to exceed supply by more than 24% by 2010.
“However, in more than three months of canvassing the market only two organisations among more than 20 that were approached are seriously considering partnering with us to train and develop this pool of post-graduate talent.
“Despite the academy having secured up to 50% of the funding needed to provide these students with world-class qualifications across a range of highly sought-after ICT and business related skills, only two companies have their willingness to contribute towards the balance of the cost,” he says.
Ellappa, a veteran educator with more than 15 years of experience in developing skills in the IT industry, said there was yawning gap between what large companies claim to be doing to help in the skills revolution and what they actually do.
"Many organisations say they don’t need education for their staff – that they have a competent team and that if these individuals need to upgrade their skills they can do so in their own time. Others claim they cannot afford to have their staff out of the office to attend training, or that their ICT suppliers have train-the-trainer schemes that provide their staff with all they need to know.”
Ellappa says several large employer organisations base their training decisions on aspects of the BEE scorecard.
“They want to know whether or not any training they commit to will increase their points in areas such as corporate social investment, skills development and enterprise development. If they can’t improve their scorecard, they don’t even consider training.
“Besides claiming that they can’t afford the expense of training, one of the most common excuses not to invest in people is that as soon as their employees are certified they leave the company to go to the competition for more money,” Ellappa says.
Pointing out that the poaching of qualified staff was one of the most negative and destructive aspects of the skills shortage, Ellappa urges companies to join the race to develop skills on the basis of collaboration and not as a competition.
“We need to build the right foundations. There are no short cuts to building skills and competency. It’s time to be brave. We must take on the ‘bean counters’ and fight for real investments to be made in addressing the skills crisis."
Responding to comments made by Ellappa, President Thabo Mbeki pledged government support for the academy’s efforts.
In a quip during his address, President Mbeki urged Ellappa to pass on to him the names of those companies that had come up with poor excuses as to why they should not participate in the development of the country’s youth.
“I suggest you (Ellappa) and I get together to visit these organisations to persuade them otherwise,” he said.