South Africa’s work readiness predicament: What to do?


We all know that a quality workforce plays an essential role in a contact centre’s ability to provide efficient and effective services. And it’s no secret that a country cannot sustain a frontline business process offshoring position and maintain international competitiveness if its BPS&O human resources are not developed to contribute significantly to its value proposition.

With the contact centre industry being marketed as a viable career option for South African youth, one would hope (and expect) that the South African education system is efficient enough to feed the industry with a competent workforce. Let’s hope again!

Our research on the challenges and trends in the BPS&O and Contact Centre industry seems to be painting a dire picture, with many of our respondents making it clear that the quality of South African school graduates leave much to be desired. As one respondent put it, “people are not ready (with basic work/like skills) to enter the workplace. There is a big disconnect from what business expects and what people can do. (The matriculants) are not being prepared properly for the contact centre environment.”

While some organisations are putting in an immense effort to try and “bridge the gap” between candidates’ schooling and the workplace with in- or outsourced training programmes, others lowered their employment criteria by appointing agents who did not even graduate from high school and (hopefully) investing in the further education or development of these young individuals.

In the meantime, government is addressing this challenge with initiatives like the Monyetla Work Readiness Programme, but Knowledge Executive seems to be getting mixed messages from respondents about its success. One respondent in the training and skills development sector noted that Monyetla “seems to be improving every year”, whilst a reputable respondent in the Human Capital sector believes it “has totally collapsed”.

The fact remains that the industry needs work readiness programmes, or incubator models, in order to maintain its prominence and growth momentum in the local job sector and the international arena.

  • What, in your opinion, is the best way to address this challenge?

2 thoughts on “South Africa’s work readiness predicament: What to do?

  1. What I find fascinating is that when researching global talent pools for BPS&O sectors, a common denominator across many destinations and in particular established off-shore destinations like South Africa are crying out for larger pools of skilled BPS workers.
    To be fair, South Africa is challenged with the output of secondary schools and it seems that the sector is finding the students not to be ‘fit-for-purpose’ when looking to employ them directly from school.

    There is however a caveat, many providers have established some phenomenal recruitment and selection methodologies as well as either established their own or linked with BPS academy’s’ and the skills output from these establishments are proving highly successful.
    Recruitment and selection is paramount, hire for attitude and train for skill and product knowledge.

    Our current schooling system (which is not-a-unique to South Africa concern) are still in essence spoon feeding learners and not allowing for cognitive and higher order thinking, this is further exasperated with old school techniques of reductionism and ‘Only do what you are told to do’ and there is a reprogramming of this trained thought process that is required when potential employee’s are brought into the work place.

    A short period of time is needed with the chosen youth to allow for the inspiring potential to shine through. Basic life-skills which look to the holistic individual allow for a dynamic, confident and capable workforce. We have seen evidence of this over the past 12 months across hundreds of previously disadvantaged youth who have entered into the Impact Sourcing Academy and just a few weeks of integrated life skills training with the required sector specific BPS curriculum and the individual who emerges on the other-side is a sought after proficient individual who is ready for the world of work and employer response shows a successful quality employee. Needless to say that all is not lost.

    Additional interaction with the various education leaders will hopefully yield results in ensuring a re-think of the current schooling and teaching environment, and in the interim the BPS sector should continue to implement a culture of ‘life -long learning’ for their workforce to ensure not only retained skills, but staff who embrace their organsiations and brands.

    An area which is a current hot topic is that corporate South Africa are only employing successful school leavers i.e. grade 12 / matric. It is understood that a bar needed to be set at some point, but those progressive organisations who have removed this entry criteria are finding that some of their more successful, innovative and loyal employee’s do not carry a school leaving certificate – this is one of the tick boxes that talent development instruments such as the highly successful Monyetla should look to reconsider.

    The future world of skills development is changing rapidly with many schools implementing digital training tools such as tablets and virtual facilitators training on certain subjects. Already business degree’s are available on smart phones, so it is only a matter of time before the BPS sector will be forced to rethink their own recruitment and training methodologies. It is true that schools should produce ‘fit-for-purpose’ skills, but in the interim innovation is rife and the results of this maverick thinking are certainly yielding results which the international market will want to share in.

  2. I’ve heard of some organisations addressing the skills problem by developing their own, in-house work readiness programmes. We can blame the school system all we want, but if more organisations took the initiative to run their own incubator models it would go a long way to helping the problem.

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