Sponsored Content

Advanced Certificate in Management Practice (ACMP) students at Henley Africa graduation

SA’s economy is already battling the undertow of an underskilled working population; how will it be able to keep up with the coming wave of generative AI that will resculpt the workplace as we know it? By radically increasing the pace and relevance of management education and skills development, says the dean and director of Henley Business School Africa.

If SA’s economy were a food processing plant, it would be a monstrously inefficient one. While the system is successfully extracting the juice of a few skilled resources, the vast majority of SA’s raw talent is pulped, underutilised, undervalued and ultimately discarded. 

This is the harsh truth of South Africa’s skills development and public education processes, and the consequences of this wastefulness are stark, says Jon Foster-Pedley, dean and director of Henley Business School Africa. 

“Right now, just 6% of people who start school have degrees within six years of leaving school in South Africa, compared to 50% in the UK and 55% in Finland. Our organisations and institutions are hollowed out due to a lack of skills and management ability. We risk economic stagnation as well as widening inequality and an inability to adapt to the demands of the future if we don’t do something about it and do it fast!” 

Foster-Pedley says that this reality is the driving force behind Henley Business School’s rapidly expanding education offerings on both its Joburg and Cape Town campuses. The school has developed a unique, post-experience qualification stairway in Management Practice, comprising five flexible and stackable qualifications from post-matric to master’s level designed to fast-track the skills and confidence of working South Africans.

“We want to make the path to becoming a sought-after manager easier, faster and more immediately useful for individuals and organisations,” he says. 

“Our economy is already battling the undertow of an underskilled working population. How will it be able to keep up with the coming wave of generative AI that will resculpt the workplace as we know it? Nothing short of a workplace skills revolution will be able to counter this if we want to drive greater economic activity and, more importantly, give people purpose, hope and meaning in their lives and work.”

Poet, Prelude Sibindi performing at Henley Africa graduation ceremony

Writing a new score for skills development in South Africa

Foster-Pedley believes that as the velocity of change accelerates, the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn will become ever more important. “The world of work is moving so fast; we need to become continuous learners, not just when we are in the classroom but in our workplaces. An attitude of continuous learning can help us be more adaptable and resourceful in the face of change,” he says. 

Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, career coaches and authors of The Squiggly Career, agree, saying that the capacity for learning is becoming the currency people trade on in their careers. “Once we went to work to learn how to do a job, now learning is the job.”

Focusing on the traits that make us human – critical thinking, problem-solving, empathy, innovative thought and entrepreneurial spirit – must also underpin a new approach to education and skills development. As futurist Frank Diana emphasises, these ‘future-proof’ skills, along with resilience, positivity, and grit, will equip individuals to thrive in the workplace flux. And a big part of this is getting people to recognise that they have many of these innate qualities in them already.

The real skills are inside you already

“Most people underestimate how many skills they already have,” says Foster-Pedley. “One of the things our programmes do then is to help draw this out of people, making invisible competence visible and helping to build people’s credibility and confidence in the workplace. 

“Everyone who comes to business school wants to learn about finance, marketing, and digital transformation. Of course, all of those are important, but the real skills are in you. Your initiative, your capacity to think, your ability to look at complex problems, sort them out, and make decisions. Your ability to keep on trying and chipping away at problems, even if you feel disheartened. All these are valuable skills you can hone and develop – and use – to build a future-proof career.”

“In our fast-moving context, skills and confidence are the ultimate freedom, not wealth,” argues Foster-Pedley. “And ensuring greater access to acquiring these should, therefore, be a priority for our country.

“This isn’t just about economic growth; it’s about creating a future where everyone has what it takes to dance with the future, not stumble along behind it. We’ve got all the intelligence and raw talent we need in this country. All we need to do now is ensure that we don’t waste it – that’s true democratisation. Let’s move beyond the limitations of the past and our inadequate education systems to embrace the transformative power of skills and confidence. The future is waiting, and it’s time to start the music.

Henley Business School’s qualification stairway in management practice from post-matric to master’s level is designed to fast-track the management skills and draw out the innately human strengths of working South Africans, boosting their careers and the companies they work for. Programmes run in Cape Town and Johannesburg with multiple intakes throughout the year. For more information: https://www.henleysa.ac.za


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted