Upskilling remains as important as ever in South Africa

29 June 2020 3 min. read

PwC executives in South Africa have urged the business environment to preserve the upskilling drive that they had begun before the Covid-19 crisis, as it is likely to become all the more essential under new conditions. 

South African businesses appear to have been successful in their skill initiatives before the crisis, with nearly a third of all CEOs in the country saying that their upskilling programmes had strengthened both their corporate culture and their employee engagement. Outside of this, skill development is also of crucial importance from an economic perspective for South Africa.

The country has a large and young population, a large section of which is unemployed. Analysts have long suggested that training the youth in digital skills would serve the dual purpose of reducing unemployment while also addressing the growing digital skill gap in South Africa.

Come the Covid-19 crisis, business continuity has become the priority for many businesses. PwC South Africa’s HR Technology and Culture Lead Barry Vorster has urged businesses not to lose their focus on upskilling as they grapple with the crisis.Upskilling remains as important as ever in South Africa“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders were struggling to find skilled and experienced talent. In the current climate, businesses still face the challenge of filling skills gaps. The skills that were hard to find before won’t be much easier to find now. Finding people with the right skills and the right cultural fit will be even harder,” he said. 

He explained the complexity of the situation, as upskilling has now become an integral part of the business continuity process in itself.

“There are immediate issues in the workplace that need to be addressed: workforce safety and well-being are the top priority for business, as well as managing costs. In many industries, people may need to be reskilled and redeployed and some will face the anxiety of being made redundant. The question is how we make short term decisions whilst keeping a longer-term future in mind.  How do we avoid the knee jerk decision made during previous crises?”

Strategy & Digital Transformation Lead at PwC South Africa Chantal Maritz explained that a skilled workforce will be crucial in surviving the worst of the pandemic, as well as in the aftermath. Business agility is key in this scenario, which requires the talent to extract potential from the tech that is available.

“For some organisations, surviving the impact of COVID-19 will require redeploying workers to critical roles. Rapidly reskilling and supporting workers to take on different roles — ones which they’ve never been trained for in many instances — will be the difference between success and failure,” said Maritz.