Skills development initiatives don’t mean much in the workplace if real work readiness is not
achieved. If the skills taught cannot be implemented by the employee at work, if they amount
only to theoretical learning without practical application, will any return on investment be
According to Gizelle McIntyre, Director at The Institute of People Development work
readiness programmes need to be well designed and implemented within a proper
framework within an organisation. “This could include a curriculum that is made up of various
programmes to encourage engagement, develop value based mind-sets and provide
additional skills.” This should focus on aspects such as: Fit for Purpose, i.e. mastery of the skill
or functioning knowledge required for the workplace; Field Specific Knowledge, i.e. mastery
of the body of knowledge linked to the job role; and Attitudes, Behaviours and Values, i.e.
assimilation of the norms and values to allow the graduate to work professionally within the
culture of the organisation.
Relevant skills programmes could include anything from Increasing Gratitude, to Building Self
Esteem and Assertiveness Skills, Business Etiquette, Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace,
Business Writing, Communication and Relationship Building Strategies, Public
Speaking/Presentation Skills, Basic Administrative Skills, Time Management, Understanding
Performance, Writing Reports and Proposals, Budgeting, How to Manage Conflict, Legislation,
Business Ethics, Diversity Training, Safety in the Workplace, and all the relevant internal
programmes of the organisation.
So how is work readiness achieved? “Simply put, work readiness is built into organisational
strategy by providing the tools, methods, and processes to attract, select and support the
new entrant through this transition,” confirms McIntyre. “However, organisations in South
Africa have to consider the local context. They need to take into account the vast unskilled
labour pool, including the unemployed youth.”
South Africa has the third highest unemployed youth figure in the world. This demographic
comprises youth that do not have access to networks that connect people to workplaces.
“They live in communities with high unemployment numbers, which makes the transition into
the workplace more difficult, due to a lack of knowledge of work culture. As a result, they face
poor economic growth prospects and are confused by the nature of work changing rapidly,”
laments McIntyre. “They endure a poor schooling system, and are millennials that have
different priorities, are much more mobile, and will simply leave (even if they had a bursary)
if the workplace can’t provide for their particular needs.” This results in a waste of bursary
funds, with figures indicating that only 30 percent of bursary learners/employees are
Good work readiness programmes benefit an organisation through instant productivity and
engagement, the reduction of churn at all levels, more effective induction and orientation
periods (on-boarding), and a better match between selected candidates and line
expectations. “Optimisation of projected training expenditure, because new recruits are more
work ready, is a huge bonus. The skills development component of the BBBEE scorecard is
also placing a compliance focus on skills development and this, in terms of work readiness,
may be an advantage.”
A benefit not often seen is the access to a large, untapped, disadvantaged talent pool which
doesn’t have the networks to get work – but is potentially more committed, often more
motivated, and more socially responsible (many plough their earnings and experience back
into their communities). Providing internships, hosting learnerships, or offering other
structured integration processes for bursary holders allows the organisation access to tax
incentives, PIVOTAL and other skills development grants. This can also allow the organisation
to brand itself as a socially responsible and engaged employer, or as an organisation that
supports long-term sustainability of the organisation within its community.
McIntyre shares the fundamental requirements for good workplace readiness processes and
programmes. Work readiness requires a supportive learning culture; novices are work ready
when they can meaningfully contribute to the delivery of products or the provision of services
in an organisational context. Work readiness practices should support individual integration
and productivity. These practices should also reflect the level of maturity of the organisation
in terms of learning and development culture; based on the type of learning ecosystem in the
organisation. Creating instant feedback systems, where new recruits feel challenged or
uncertain, is essential. Programmes should build new recruits’ confidence, and build the
capacity of line managers to take a personal role in selecting and grooming their next
generation of employees, while developing transcendent learning ecosystems.
“Progressive organisations are recognising that they can no longer operate as if they were a
separate system,” concludes McIntyre. “They realise that they form part of the broader social
and economic system. Their survival depends on them reading current tendencies and trends.
Adapting their process is not just about being socially responsible; it is also being able to thrive
in the new economy by bringing in staff that can support a new generation of strategies,
products and services – which will create a sustainable future and, at the same time, a
workforce that thrives. It is not about being reactive, but being proactive in the face of a
constantly changing world.”

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