Home Issues March 2008

March 2008


The People Issue

At a recent Q&A session at a risk management media briefing, I was ceremoniously told by a fellow media colleague that the people, the voters should start to take ownership of the fact that, as a country, we have a serious skills shortage.  And that it was not, as was my opinion, actually the business of business to ensure that something gets done about this predicament.

Now forgive my ignorance of the business of business but, in my most humble opinion, if a company, an industry or profession identifies that it has a problem with the recruitment of adequately skilled workers for either short-term or long-term sustainability, then surely it is of little value sitting around hoping that the ‘people’ will manage, indeed govern, the situation. Surely, if their own succession planning, service delivery and bottom line is affected, then it most certainly must be a key business strategy to intervene and ensure sustainability.

Let us take, for an example, the much beleaguered issue of Eskom and what is euphemistically referred to as ‘load shedding’.  Without wanting to lay blame – no, in fact, to lay blame here is definitely a must. Should government have planned better? Should Eskom’s executives have planned better? Or should perhaps the mythical ‘people’ have planned better?

Certainly, it is the business of government to ensure that it puts in place the necessary frameworks that allow businesses and mainstream society to be able to function at their optimal best for a sustained period of time. But we know, without doubt, don’t we, that government is beleaguered with its own set of labour issues, and so who is the next authority on having the skill and know-how about what are our country’s long-term planning needs?

This, in my, again, most humble opinion, is the business of business. And so,  in my further opinion, business leaders need to start playing hard ball with government. Business needs to begin to plan and implement strategies that directly intervene in the skills shortage dilemma. Business needs to begin to look at programmes that deliver, for instance, better quality students. Bottom line, we simply cannot sit back and wait for someone else to do something about a situation that affects us directly.

The CA profession, four years ago, did just that. They identified a shortage of skills within our profession, and set out on a journey to ensure that members of this profession begin collectively to intervene.

So, not only do we now have a CA Charter and specific skills programmes, but also we have the often not sufficiently lauded Thuthuka programme, which has made immensely significant inroads in developing university candidates of the highest quality.

And our next intervention may be to encourage fellow businesses and fellow professions to follow suit.