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South Africa doesn’t have a talent problem; it has a talent development problem. South African businesses simply don’t have enough managers who know how to get things done and get the best out of others. This has to change if we want the country to soar.

Management is notoriously hard to learn and is mostly learned the hard way! So says Henley Business School Africa Dean Jon Foster-Pedley, who wants to start a skills revolution in South Africa to build careers, organisations, performance – and hope in the country.

South Africa has a talent gap problem, he explains. Quality management and leadership skills are rare, and an estimated 45% of the workforce have skills unsuited to the jobs they are doing, and only about 7% of those who start school in South Africa go on to get degrees; it’s 55% in Finland and 50% in the UK.

“Practically no one gets degrees in South Africa. Most people end up either unemployed or doing jobs without the training they need, working at jobs above their qualification level. They arrive in their 30s and 40s feeling they are stuck for life without qualifications. And this erodes their hope and confidence, their belief in their own intelligence and capability. And this shows in company performance and results. 

“Our organisations and institutions are hollowed out due to a lack of skills and management ability. According to the Department of Public Service & Administration, almost 2,000 senior government managers at national and provincial levels are considered not to have the qualifications for the positions they occupy.”   

The remedy? “We need to make management training easier, faster and more immediately useful for organisations,” says Foster-Pedley.

Turning disadvantage into an advantage

This is why Henley Business School has developed a unique educational solution: a qualification stairway in Management Practice from post-matric to masters level that is designed to fast-track the management skills of working South Africans, helping their careers as well as the companies they are working for.

“This is a new way of education,” says Foster-Pedley. “Mid-career management training with qualifications for people who have work experience and high motivation. The truth is management skills are learned in the workplace, but unfortunately, this is mostly done in a haphazard way. A formal learning pathway can help to bring routine, system, order, and professionalism to the process. People can work while they study and gain lifelong motivation and a huge confidence and skills surge. At the same time, companies get a massive boost in capability and talent. 

“In this way, we can fast-track management skills for people with experience in real time, in real life, to get real results. This is turning South Africa’s great disadvantage into an advantage.”

As part of its commitment to making it easier to access this training, Henley Business School has opened a campus in Cape Town, in addition to its bustling Joburg campus, to offer its training in that market. This February, it will kick off its accredited training on that campus with the launch of its SOAR! Programme, an Advanced Diploma in Management Practice (ADMP), and the third accredited programme in its management stairway.

SOAR! is accredited at NQF level 7 (the same level as an undergraduate degree) and is especially relevant to new managers, team leaders, and supervisors who have been working for many years but lack formal degree-level qualifications. The programme offers skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace, and which positively impact students’ ability to manage and lead through complexity. 

Building confidence and skills one graduate at a time

Nantus Grobler, who was looking to build his management competence after moving into a sales role, says he was drawn to the ADMP programme precisely because of the school’s clearly articulated stairway of programmes starting at his (then) level of experience, all the way up to MBA level. 

“I’ve been studying with Henley for three years. I started with the Higher Certificate in Management Practice (HCMP), then moved on to the Advanced Certificate in Management Practice (ACMP), and now I’m doing the ADMP,” he says. 

“Initially, I was worried that I would fail, but on reflection, I think that was simply a fear of the unknown because once I started the first course, the supportive environment and focus on developing confidence and self-awareness really came to the fore. 

“I’ve applied what I’ve been taught into my workplace systematically, and it’s had a massive impact. Since starting my studies, I’ve shifted from something I thought I loved (sales) to something I really love (business), which could not have happened without Henley.”

Whether people work in a small or large organisation, or if you are your own boss, the Henley SOAR programme is perfect for bolstering business acumen, reinforcing strategic management practices and expanding your thinking by introducing you to key concepts such as customer value, the future world of work, design thinking and sustaining excellence. 

Another ADMP graduate Claire Nombika says the programme gave her the confidence to realise her life-long dream of being her own boss. 

“Two years ago, just after I’d handed in my last ADMP assignment, I launched my recruitment firm, Lusapho Professional Business Services,” she says. “I had always wanted to start my own business but did not have the confidence to do it until the ADMP. Now my company, which is 100% female and black-owned, has 40 employees and a branch in the UK.”

“This is the workplace skills revolution South Africa needs,” says Foster Pedley. “We urgently need to develop alternative – and more practical routes – that allow more young South Africans to access quality education. Traditional universities are great at training elites, but what we need in addition to this is a national movement of skilled and confident managers who can get things done in business as in government. 

“Not only would this get people back on the qualification path and boost their hope, abilities, and careers, but it would also tap into the wisdom and experience they have gained on the job, bringing this together to fast-track their skills to another level and helping them, their companies and the economy!

“The great irony is that in South Africa, we have some of the best business schools in the world, but we also have one of the largest pools of underdeveloped and unemployed talent and this will ultimately undermine the country’s economic prospects. 

“Finding new ways to use the expertise and excellence in our institutions to liberate South African talent, to build the future we all want and deserve is a national priority.” DM


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