SA should learn about training staff on the job

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I refer to the article in Business Watch on July 24 that chief executives are suffering insomnia worrying about where they will source economically relevant skills. It is also alleged that unemployed graduates lack the skills necessary to be employed.

Perhaps chief executives, along with their Nedlac partners in government and labour, should instead worry why this cosy tripartite arrangement with its vested interests of maintaining the status quo for its members, has not done more in education, economic investment and development to not only retain South African-educated skilled workers who are emigrating, but nurturing the new cohort for the future.

Their apparent worries are hypocritical and humbug.

Except for professionals, Adcorp’s May employment index shows a decline in all occupations. But I know of senior chartered accountants and other associated professionals who say suitable jobs are hard to come by. This disproves that skilled people are finding it easier to get work.

A friend, an accountant, was told by her employer she was not suitable for a more senior vacant post because she allegedly lacked practical information technology (IT) skills. Soon thereafter she went to London and immediately found a similar job to the one she was denied at the head office of a multinational. Ironically, when she returned she worked for her old firm and helped implement the latest software she had helped roll out in London. Not bad for her “lack” of IT savvy. She said the London difference was firms were willing to offer on-the-job training and development in a stimulating and competitive environment, unlike the nine-to-five, government worker-bee mentality found among many local firms.

I largely blame the alleged lack of skills on the fact that employers are reluctant to train or upscale workers, even graduates who don’t necessarily have the “right” degree – those who don’t match their idealised and frequently unrealistic profile. The perfect employee is a 25-year-old black African with a professional postgraduate degree and 10 years’ specialised experience. But he or she is not out there.

I’ve heard this lament – lack of skills – since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Instead of complaining, why don’t chief executives proactively do something about it?

Thomas Johnson

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Answer is to use less electricity at home

I would like to add to Mike Kantey’s response (“Resistance to nuclear power is warranted”, July 31) to the debate about nuclear power. Apart from security and storage concerns, there is a strong economic case for nuclear not being an answer to South Africa’s reliance on coal.

As stated in the article “Seven myths about alternative energy” by Michael Grunwald in Foreign Policy magazine in September/October 2009, a big problem with nuclear power is cost.

Nuclear plants are supposed to be expensive to build but cheap to operate. He says that they’re turning out to be really expensive to build; their cost estimates have quadrupled in less than a decade.

Energy guru Amory Lovins calculated (in 2009) that new nuclear plants would cost nearly three times as much as wind – and that was before their construction costs exploded for a variety of reasons, including the global credit crunch and a weak global economy, the “atrophying of the nuclear labour force”, and a “supplier squeeze symbolised by a Japanese company’s worldwide monopoly on steel forging for reactors”. Many new reactors are behind schedule and over budget. Moody’s warned in 2009 that utilities risked ratings downgrades if they sought new reactors, and the renewables industry attracted $71 billion (R578bn) in worldwide private capital in 2007 – while nuclear attracted nothing.

Grunwald says US nuclear utilities are turning to politicians to supplement their existing loan guarantees, tax breaks, direct subsidies, and other cradle-to-grave government support with more public money. Reactors don’t make much economic sense to build unless they are subsidised; that’s why the strongest push for nuclear is coming from countries where power is publicly funded, like South Africa. As Grunwald jokes: “For all the talk of sanctions, if the world really wants to cripple the Iranian economy, maybe the mullahs should just be allowed to pursue nuclear energy.”

He also states that nuclear power plants cost trillions of dollars for relatively modest gains in the relatively distant future.

He states that while wind, solar and geothermal power are growing, they still make up a small percentage of world electricity generation. The best suggestion he has is just to save power at home. Then we’ll need less. I couldn’t agree more.

Jens Horber

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Name, shame thieving financial institutions

Clive Bromilow’s letter (Business Report, July 23) warns us of how his financial institution grabbed 35 percent of his investment for its profit, and he was left with only 17 percent of what he paid in. But his letter left out the most vital information of all: the name of the investment company.

How can readers know which company to avoid if he keeps its name secret? Naming and shaming at least enables the financial sector ombudsman to investigate.

Keith Gottschalk

Claremont

Where are Addington Hospital’s workers?

Why is it that the so-called leaders in our country can never fix anything and always seem to want to move onto something bigger and better instead.

Take Addington Hospital for instance. This is a prime example of where government health care has ended up. The sight of the public giving up their own time to clean the premises is astonishing; where are the people who are paid to do this? Where are the supervisors who are paid to ensure that the cleaning is done properly? Why is provisioning at this hospital in such a mess?

The government is planning to spend an incredible amount of taxpayers’ hard-earned money on an all embracing National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme. A wonderful idea in theory, but what will be different? Surely we need to at least fix the current public health system before even contemplating the expensive NHI road.

Many of the schools for the very people who need quality education the most are in crisis, in some provinces we cannot even get textbooks to the learners timeously. The answer in KwaZulu-Natal is to throw open Model C schools to learners wherever they may reside. There already seems to be a good mix of all colours at many Model C schools. Instead of putting all our efforts into fixing the broken schools we must now change the rules, which will lead to total confusion. Logic surely dictates that learners should attend schools nearest to them. Where is the determination to fix the real problem of teacher skills and badly equipped schools?

Finally, on unemployment, the government remains in total denial and continues to undertake Cosatu’s bidding by tightening already stringent labour laws. With up to one in three job seekers unemployed, many with few skills, we continue with our ridiculous efforts to build a “workers’ paradise”, where the unemployed are expected to sit around and wait for a few “decent jobs” to come along. Business is the key to reducing unemployment, but sadly the government refuses to heed any ideas from this quarter and continues to bang its collective head against the same brick wall.

Derek Excell

Kloof

Buy local plan is good news for clothing jobs

In Business Report of August 1, the article “Treasury throws lifeline to clothing, textile industry” explains how the National Treasury is trying to resuscitate this moribund industry. From now, all government departments and enterprises owned by the government must buy their clothing, textiles, footwear and leather from local manufacturers. This is indeed good news.

Until 1994, when the ANC took over the reins, South Africa was not a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and our manufacturers could import fabric from suitable overseas weavers to complement what was produced in South Africa. Our retailers, large and small, sourced most of their requirements locally. By joining the WTO, the ANC should have foreseen that in the same way that we could export anywhere in the world, the world could also sell to South Africa. The result has been that in the intervening years, the textile trade has languished and it is now in a catatonic condition.

Being a labour intensive industry, the loss of jobs has been staggering. Some 55 000 jobs have been lost since 2003.

Local weavers cannot supply the demands of the clothing industry involved in this particular field, so the government is going to allow the importation of certain types of fabric under certain controlled conditions. A sense of déjà vu will permeate the industry: this was what was being done until 1994.

Let us hope that we will not fall into the hands of unscrupulous civil servants granting import licences to licencepreneurs for resale to legitimate businesses. It has taken the ANC 18 years to see reason. Perhaps we shall move even further and one day I will be able to buy a shirt “Made in South Africa” and not have to check if it has a breast pocket and whether or not the buttons match the button holes.

Mariano Castrillon

Randpark Ridge


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