Reasons Why Investing in Businesses Skills Development Can Secure A Work-Ready IT Talent Pipeline


South African businesses, like those from the rest of the world, are battling a crippling technology skills shortfall. The tragedy in this country is that it is happening against the backdrop of the highest unemployment rate in the world. According to Youth Capital, more than 9,2-million young people in this country are not in employment, in school or in training, and live in households where no one works.

These are astounding figures and obviously unsustainable. Debate always rages about the efficacy of broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE). However, amidst the polarisation of opinions, there lies a golden opportunity for businesses to strategically shift their BBBEE spend and contribute towards the true spirit of BEE and make a meaningful contribution to the country, while earning a handsome return on investment (ROI).

During challenging economic times, businesses seek out the best ROI investments across their businesses. However, it could be argued that instead of doing the same with their BBBEE spend, many businesses treat it like a box-ticking exercise. A simple shift in how they approach skills development can see them secure a work-ready skills pipeline while launching technology careers for young people that would otherwise languish in the status quo.

Shifting BBBEE spend towards academies whose sole purpose is to develop and train young, talented people in businesses’ live working environments makes business sense. This is because by securing a work-ready skills pipeline tailored to their own businesses, organisations can maximise productivity, reduce recruitment costs and address their IT backlog, while simultaneously providing dignity and uplifting communities by kickstarting IT careers for young people.

A specialist academy that sets up and operates inside a live environment, solely focused on a business’s junior technology talent pipeline, is an exciting paradigm shift and opportunity for businesses because in addition to providing candidates with real work experience on a business’s own development work, it significantly reduces costs associated with recruiting juniors.

After speaking to many CIOs, it can be confidently said that one of their greatest challenges is finding talent that is work ready for their environment. No two work environments are the same and scouring through a skills-scarce environment to find the right skill fit is an immense challenge. The only way it is possible to guarantee finding work-ready talent for their own business is to conduct training in their own environments.

This is because when businesses invest in learnerships that are conducted off-site, organisations themselves need to do the full onboarding once the young people arrive at the business. They need to set and manage expectations, embed them into the company culture, and bring them up to speed with systems, processes, technology and current live projects. This results in a time lag between arrival and the point where they can start creating value, over and above the added strain on HR staff and managers.

On the other hand, training that is conducted by skilled and qualified trainers within a business’s own live working environment is far more effective, both from a time-to-value perspective and by reducing the burden on the business’s own resources. Having vetted candidates throughout the year means that by the time they are finished the programme, the new hires are known to the organisation already and have honed all the soft skills required to thrive in the environment. The technical mentorship and ramp-up inside the live environment, supported by the skills development and learnership programme, means that candidates are genuinely ready to hit the ground running.

The young people become embedded in the company culture from day one of the learnership and learn during over the course of a year exactly what is expected from the business, as well as its ways of doing work. The young person learns using the exact technology currently being deployed in the business. It is obvious why this process develops work-ready talent, and certainly from redAcademy’s perspective, why there has to date been 100% retention.

The perfect retention rate is not by accident, but rather by design. On-site training builds a clear career pathway for young people. When they can see their career roadmaps they invest even more into their roles and into the businesses that facilitated their training. Because they are onsite from the beginning their expectations match those of the business that invested in them.

It is time more organisations consider switching their approach to their BBBEE obligations because it aligns more closely with the spirit of empowerment. Beyond this, it allows them to grow their IT talent pool at a sustainable rate, internally and with full control of supply, while saving time and money.

By: Jessica Hawkey, MD at redAcademy