Incompetence adds to skills crisis

2008-09-19 00:00

THE local skills crisis has been exacerbated by plummeting competency levels among young people coming out of schools, colleges, training institutions and universities.

To make matters worse, a growing culture of entitlement has taken hold, according to local professionals in the education, training and recruitment sectors who spoke to Weekend Witness.

Most commentators noted that there appears to be a surplus of available labour in the administration and clerical sector.

However, their competency levels are questionable and growing numbers of recruitment companies and their clients are now putting candidates through theoretical and practical assessments.

Andrew Houghting, managing member of Ukupha Training and HR Consultants, is concerned about locals attaining qualifications from “dubious” educational institutions.

He explained that this only adds to the growing number of people who are not properly skilled.

“There is also this attitude that ‘it is my right to have a job’ and that ‘it is also my right to sit on that salary level’. As a result, some clients ask that we bring them the raw talent for them to train in the way they want to train them,” he added.

Sarah Alcock, senior branch manager at Kelly Pietermaritzburg, is mindful of this phenomenon.

“Graduates with a positive attitude to work, [who are] prepared to earn their stripes, will always have a place at work. There is an increasing investment in older workers. Wisdom, experience, and reliability are in short supply. Traditional retirement is being replaced by shifting lifestyles,” said Alcock.

The economy of the KZN midlands continues to demand engineers, chartered accountants, experienced auditors and artisans, who are often difficult to find. Companies search for as long as six months to a year for the right talent.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to find engineers [such as] civil and water engineers. One has to headhunt and offer good salaries. CAs, financial directors and anyone with auditing experience are also in demand,” said Bridget Jones, MD of Pronel Personnel.

Predictably, salary-level discrepancies have developed in the local economy, with professionals in certain fields demanding high salaries.

Houghting is also concerned about the impact of HIV and Aids in the workplace. “People are battling to find competent, entry-level workers who are not sick,” he said.

According to Naeem Asvat, regional executive at the Institute of Chartered Accountants, there is a shortfall in Certificate in Theory of Accounting first-year trainees. “It is estimated that the shortfall of CTA-qualified trainees in 2008 will be 1 655 trainees,” he said.

“Many graduates cannot apply the skills in the work environment. … Enthusiasm is lacking. This manifests in interviews, written tests and competency tests,” said an economist at the UKZN, Clive Coetzee.

While the recruitment sector continues to boom, an unfulfilled demand remains for appropriately skilled, competent talent in many other areas of the local economy.

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