Nazeem Martin, Managing Director of Business Partners Ltd, has urged the South African government to look seriously at legislating in favour of compulsory apprenticeships.
The country’s unemployment statistics suggest that bold solutions are required. The
number of unemployed youth (under 24) jumped by 126 000 – or nearly 10% – in the first quarter of 2012 to 1,393 million, compared to December last year.
“Government should offer grants to businesses that are able to employ apprentices for a certain time period. BEE codes could also be amended in order to include apprenticeship models, whereby businesses are able to score points by employing a certain amount of apprentices. This way SMEs can also benefit and grow from the initiative,” Martin says.
He adds that this would also help plug the country’s many skills gaps.
“Skills shortages are still considered a big threat to the sustainability of local business. Apprenticeships can aid businesses across all industries by offering a method to harness fresh talent. Correctly trained staff are able to do a wider range of tasks and take on new responsibilities. This can help to reduce skill shortages, minimise staff turnover and workplace accidents, as well as increase productivity,” he adds.
Quoting research conducted by the Learning and Skills Council in the UK on the benefits of hiring an apprentice, he says 81% of businesses surveyed said that employing apprentices generated higher overall productivity for their company. What’s more, 66% of businesses said that their apprenticeship programme made them more competitive in their industry and 74% said that apprentices tended to be more loyal, remaining at their company longer than non-apprentices.
“In tough times, the competition for contracts and tenders get even tougher. This is when an extra pair of well-trained hands could make a real difference to an SME’s chances of success,” Martin says.