Devan Moonsamy

On the one hand, we have massive unemployment, on the other, we have a skills shortage. How can we balance these? The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) in South Africa explains how we should view the skills shortage in some detail in an article from some time ago. It is still relevant as so many problems have still not been addressed fully and gets to the heart of the unemployment and skills crises. The CDE says, “we are short of skills across the board, including people with the skills to create more jobs.”

This is very true, as I have found. At ICHAF, we don’t simply hire people and put them to work as trainers. We conduct “Train the trainer” initiatives, besides other related activities, so that trainers learn best practices, can do the admin tasks required, and don’t let students who need extra help down. This is critical to increasing the number of skilled workers in SA.

This is also true in another sense. We need job creators – entrepreneurs who create businesses and hire and train staff. Entrepreneurship is pretty daunting for some. It’s not easy for a youth to take on without the drive, skills, and especially the ability to take on the risks involved. Entrepreneurial training helps a lot, as well as experience gathered in the relevant field.

Thus, we also need to realise that, if we have the aptitude for it and can take on the responsibilities and risk that come with a new venture, we should spread our wings and fly. If we have had some good training and experience (including learning some hard lessons too) pretty soon, we will find we can make a livable income running our own business and hopefully offer employment to others too.

Youth entrepreneurs exist, and that’s great, but it is also great when older people upskill themselves, engage in workplace learning, and start to run businesses drawing on their experience, knowledge and maturity. People at all levels and in all fields can be trained, and I have heard time and again managers of recently trained staff say “I can see a difference in their work!”

This makes the manager’s role easier and gives the staff member much more confidence and the ability to meet customer’s needs in a more professional way. We know how frustrating it is to work with someone who, even through no fault of their own, just doesn’t know how to do their job.

Companies that don’t train their staff end up forcing the customer to do so! Or they take their business elsewhere! Companies with good staff get customers in the door and repeat business, which fuels the economy and uplifts people’s livelihoods.

If a company is willing to get their employees into learnerships, or even for short-term intensive interventions, we can fix another problem identified by CDE: “many young people are unemployed because the education system has failed to provide them with the literacy, numeracy, and life skills they need to meet employers’ requirements.” This is so true!

And we mustn’t forget that we are still living with the legacy of apartheid. Thus, older staff members also deserve to be trained, and from experience I have seen that it is not correct that older people struggle to learn. Initially, they may feel overwhelmed and think they won’t manage, but very quickly they get into the swing of things, and they do just as well as the youths. Older people also can tend to take their studies more seriously.

Their maturity is also extremely valuable. In some cases, people prefer to deal with an older individual when their needs are quite specialised. For example, parents will tend to be happier dealing with a school principal who was a good teacher for a number of years and knows a lot about school administration too. A school principal needs quite a lot of training and experience, and that can only come with time. This is not discrimination against anyone; it just means that the education system works better. Beating unemployment means training every one of all ages and all employment levels.

It is true that as businesses grow they tend to diversify their offerings and need more staff with different skills for a variety of roles. Big businesses also seem to have the time and budget to dedicate to training. Small businesses thus tend to neglect training.

It doesn’t pay to cut corners, however, and if a small business wants to grow or even just to tick over, they must take into consideration that client expectations are increasing as other companies start to offer better deals with better-trained staff. SA is becoming increasingly competitive, often with several companies vying for tenders and customers’ money. You have to stay ahead of the game, and the best way to do that is to have a capable team on your side.

Why not start just one or a few staff members you think have potential on a learnership? Investigate the process – and the awesome tax rebate you will get which makes it practically free – and contact a reputable training company that can upskill your staff member with the exact skills they need. You won’t regret it.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, learnerships and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: |

Website: |