The South African workforce is currently faced with many challenges, two of the most pressing being the country’s significant skills gap and shortage as well as the volatile situation of the labour market. This is according to Hennie Heymans, managing director of DHL Express South Africa.
Heymans was speaking after the recent University of Johannesburg 2012 Supply Chain Skills Gap Survey, which revealed that the supply chain skills gap in South Africa has widened and is hindering logistics capabilities, as well as the country’s ability to perform more effectively economically.
The survey reveals that around 65% of employers battle to fill tactical level positions and that 66% of employers are increasingly finding it difficult to fill strategic level positions – an increase of 3% from 2011.
“Across South Africa’s various sectors, there is a limited availability of skilled resources. The shortage of skills in the logistics industry, coupled with the various strikes across the country, has only increased the sector’s inability to deliver effective service and hampers businesses that handle the delivery of goods,’ says Heymans.
He says that bridging the skills divide is a continuous challenge for logistics industry, as well other sectors in the economy. “The skills divide in South Africa continues to widen as foreign direct investment increases and the demand for talent outstrips supply.
“One of the major challenges facing any multinational company operating in South Africa, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, is the lack of adequate training as well as education systems which sometimes fall short of global standards.’
Heymans says that due to this shortfall in training, there is a critical need to provide additional training to employees.
“An engaged workforce, focussed on a company’s goal and vision, is vital for positive earning and growth. For example, one of the principal factors in DHL’s African and global performance, is the learning and development programme, Certified International Specialists (CIS).’
He explains that the programme, which is delivered to every employee across the company’s global network, has also been a key intervention in sub-Saharan Africa, bridging the skills divide and providing comprehensive training and education for the company’s employees.
“This programme has played a fundamental role in our business performance and we’ve seen how a skills programme can tangibly contribute towards a business’s bottom line.
“Logistics performance can positively or negatively influence a country’s economic growth and for this reason, it is vital for businesses within the logistics sector to strive to improve the skills divide within the industry,’ says Heymans.
Although FleetWatch concentrates on the trucking industry, it is interesting to note that it is not only in the logistics sector that the skills shortage is being felt. The car sector is also hurting and especially in terms of finding qualified mechanics.
Deon Goch, MD of Goch and Cooper Autoservices, says independent, aftermarket workshop owners are faced with a huge skills shortage. “It’s a headache trying to find staff and head hunting has become the norm. Workshop owners need to train their current staff and identify where the skill gaps lie.”
Vehicles have become increasingly more complex over the years with the addition of highly advanced electronic components. Mechanics are now expected to be service engineers with the ability to operate at complex, technical levels.
“We believe auto workshop owners will need to shift their focus from merely retaining customers to offering a multi-skilled expert that can advise on and service vehicles across the board,” says Les Mc Master, Chairman of the Motor Workshop Industry Association (MIWA).
In order to remain competitive against the OEM dealers, the aftermarket auto shops have to depend on technical manuals, manufacturers service information – even the internet – for updated technical specs and fault identification because of the variety of models they have to service.
“Until recently, there has been no further training available in South Africa for the generic mechanic once he has qualified, unless of course he has had OEM specific training,” explains Mc Master.
Diagnostic equipment assists to a certain extent but it can only do so much, which is why two years ago at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show in Las Vegas, MIWA approached American training company, Delmar, to host its ground-breaking automotive technician training program in South Africa.
Mc Master says MIWA was looking for a training programme that satisfied two major criteria, firstly a list of 13 aspects that would cover technical know-how on a vehicle from bumper to bumper and secondly, course material that included the latest model cars but was not brand specific.
Fortunately Delmar, part of Cengage Learning, already had a Master Technician course that more than satisfied these criteria and could easily be customised to fit the local environment.
The course takes mechanical and electronic car knowledge to a whole new level and is unique in that it features both online pre-and post-assessments, and skill-based CD/DVD training courses, reference books and hands-on exercise annuals. The training programme is designed to be completed within three years and is divided into 12 subjects, with a maximum of three months allowed per subject.
Enrolment requires the student to already have qualified as a motor mechanic, diesel mechanic, automotive electrician, automotive machinist, diesel fuel injection mechanic or diesel fitter. Once the student has completed a preliminary exam, to prove they have enough basic knowledge, the online or CD-based curriculum is accessed using a personal identification code.
“The skills shortage we are facing in South Africa is real. This programme aims to address this shortage in the motor industry. With today’s vehicles demanding more training and greater specialisation, mechanics are going to have to continuously adapt to changing technologies. So if the value of a good mechanic is based on the extent of his limited basic skills and knowledge, then the value of a Master Technician will be priceless,” says Mc Master.
One company which does offer specialised courses for the trucking industry is Fleet Control Services which was established in 1977 primarily to provide quality education and training in road transport related activities. It was also formed to function as a management consultancy, advising on road transport legislation, vehicle selection, control of operating costs, driver evaluation and control, workshop organisation and control, and other transport and distribution-related aspects.
A wide range of courses is offered which are available through distance learning, as in-company courses or as group contact sessions. The exception is the Workshop
Assistant’s course as this includes practical workshop sessions.