Workplace Readiness is a Critical Step to Successful Skills Development

May 2016

Workplace readiness can often be a major challenge for first-time entrants into the workplace. This often results in additional pressure for employers and employees alike when embarking on a skills development or empowerment programme.  A lack of exposure, limited knowledge of the business environment and the underdeveloped interpersonal or soft skills of many young entrants (especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds) are just some of the challenges facing previously unemployed candidates.

“Bridging the gap into the working world is thus a critical first step in addressing the need for larger talent pools within business and industry, and certainly a step that corporate South Africa can actively participate in,” says Imogen Rossam, Business Development Consultant at Progression.

Workplace readiness programmes offer a great means for organisations to prepare first-time entrants into the workplace, as they aim to develop critical soft skills that provide a sound basis to a successful career. 

A recent collaboration between Progression and Strategic Skills Development Specialists, a KZN-based training provider, has seen the creation of an ‘incubation-style’ workplace readiness programme. The programme aims to take previously unemployed youth, some of whom have disabilities, and facilitate their entry into the production and manufacturing industries. In this instance, the programme is implemented through various skills development initiatives with Progression’s clients, the aim of which is to allow learners to develop industry-related skills and experience that will increase their employment opportunities.

Although this style of learning is not entirely new to the market, the project is unique in that it aims to empower both industry skills and soft skills. The courses currently being implemented are Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services NQF 1 and Production Technology NQF2 learnerships. “Although these are entry-level qualifications, they provide the learners with a sound base or introduction to the topics, whilst also gaining valuable insight into the ‘bigger picture’ of business,” comments Imogen.

Learners are placed on an introductory short course which provides theoretical training in preparation for entry into the workplace. Although the theory is critical to the learners’ successful completion of their qualification, practical exposure provides a transition into real understanding and development. Jithern Singh, Director at Strategic Skills, comments, “The learners are generally quite ‘green’ when they come out of the theory training. However, once they are exposed to the workplace and are able to start applying the theory that they have been learning, suddenly real engagement starts taking place.”

“This approach to skills development is a real ‘across-the-board’ collaboration,” adds Imogen. “There are multiple stakeholders involved, with the aim to create experienced, skilled and, most importantly, employable candidates for the industry.”

The programme is run over the course of 12 months with the option of advancing learners onto a higher qualification on completion of the first year. “Our aim is to afford candidates, who have the potential, better opportunities to ‘compete’ in the open labour market by providing the platform to make the successful transition,” states Imogen.

From the employer’s perspective, it’s a real ‘ground-up’ approach to skills development and crafting a committed workforce.  It’s a ‘Grow Your Own’ long-term investment, but with tangible and sustainable benefits. 

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