By Lwazi Sithole, Head of Mindworx Academy
Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on life in South Africa. Previously financially safe companies – large and small alike – have had to face heart-wrenching decisions that have put more people than ever into unemployment, exacerbating an already fragile economy and worsening the crisis of youth unemployment.
By shutting down the economy, sectors like hospitality, tourism and retail have experienced huge job losses. Others, like financial services, property and telecoms, are beginning to see the impact now, and backbone employers like mines and SOEs are facing unparalleled challenges.
It would be easy to despair in the face of these problems, but it would also be wrong. In our recruitment and training businesses we’re seeing another picture entirely.
Many organisations have had to accelerate their digitisation efforts as staff work from home and customers access their services remotely. This has left many businesses scrambling to bring their offerings to market digitally and to enhance their e-commerce platforms, and this represents a real opportunity as the demand for digital skills increases.
Before the pandemic, the world was braced for the disruption of jobs driven by large scale digitisation. Yes, some roles were eliminated but others were created, and these new roles remain. They need a wide variety of new skills. These include machine learning, robotics process automation, data science using Python, big data using Hadoop, cyber security, and cloud computing on Amazon Web Service and Azure, among others.
The need for new skills for a new world is good news, particularly for South Africa’s unemployed youth. The millennial and generation Z cohorts were born into a digital world and have the ability to adapt as quickly as the brave new workplace evolves.
For companies to succeed, substantial numbers of their employees will need reskilling and upskilling for the digital world. Yet only 30% of employees at risk of job displacement by technological changes received training prior to Covid-19. We also know that the employees most at risk are often the ones who are least likely to receive any training at all.
This is our opportunity to re-think our approach to people, training, retention, and success. We need to be creative in our training efforts. This means partnering with the right providers, building training regimens that benefit our organisations, and enhancing the skills and knowledge base of our staff.
Traditional methods and approaches are no longer able to cope with the fast evolving digital skills landscape. Of course, in our Covid world, training must be delivered using a hybrid approach focused predominantly on online learning with some classroom interaction depending on what is appropriate at a given time.
The need for companies to use their training expenditure wisely is why we focus our energies on training that is customised, focused on industry and sector skills requirements, tailormade case studies and enhanced scenarios which respond to the immediate and actionable benefit of organisations. Rather than a basic and blanket approach, our focus is on scarce skills, a clear identification of needs and a vision for the future, with our clients’ digital transformation strategies in mind.
South African employers must repurpose the people they have and non-traditional skills programmes are what will ensure that their future workplace will be able to continue to deliver in our evolving and challenging environment.