If undertaken correctly, ABET or AET is a significant transformation driver. It upskills many South Africans who were previously denied the opportunity to access an education. However, just as importantly, it facilitates productivity and, therefore, economic growth. A vibrant economy will create more employment, as well as skills development and training opportunities. These are often-overlooked goals of skills development and training. As a result, training becomes a mere “tick-box” exercise, undermining the true contribution that it can make towards the transformation. This is by improving productivity which, in turn, fuels economic growth.
Unfortunately, many companies are merely training to garner 25 points for their Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) scorecards. Their training programmes are not based on real skills required as identified by a gap analysis. Instead, they plan for certain training simply because it contributes the most towards their B-BBEE scorecards. There is no real intention to equip employees with actual skills that will enable them to grow and develop their careers.
Adult literacy and numeracy training is geared specifically at those employees who perform mundane and general work. These workers do not have the skills needed to rise up the ranks and assume more responsibility. This is so that they can improve their earning potential and, therefore, their livelihoods. Many of these employees are diligent and loyal workers. Thus, they too should be given the opportunity to grow and develop their careers.
Worse still, some companies merely select to work with certain training providers because they offer the best ratings. Scant attention is actually given to the quality of their training solutions. This relegates training companies to mere compliance partners. They are not viewed as the skills development leaders that they really are. Their skills and experience can truly transform South African workplaces, the economy and society at large.
ABET helps reduce poverty
As an important form of skills development, ABET or AET helps to reduce the poverty gap and increase economic activity. Those adult literacy and numeracy training programmes that are geared specifically at poor communities are having a positive impact on poverty. This is by equipping unemployed citizens with the skills that they need to find jobs and contribute towards economic growth. By absorbing these previously disadvantaged citizens into workplaces, we will also develop a more inclusive economy. This is an ultimate goal that we still struggle to achieve despite almost 30 years of democracy.
Research has shown that low education ensnares people or even causes poverty. People who do not have a decent education cannot secure employment and, thus, earn an income. This situation is also referred to as the “education trap” and can be observed in South Africa. As of the first quarter of 2023, the majority of unemployed citizens of the country only had an education level below matric. 41% of unemployed individuals held a National Qualifications Framework Level 4 qualification but had not completed a tertiary education. Only 2,7% of university graduates were unemployed. 7% of those individuals who hold another tertiary qualification were unemployed. Refer to South Africa: unemployed by education level 2023 | Statista.
Notably, nearly 40% of unemployed citizens of the country during the first three months of 2023 were Black South Africans. This is compared to the 7,5% of unemployed South Africans who were White. Again, this is an indication that transformation has been slow. It also motivates the need for proper skills development to uplift people to fast-track empowerment. Refer to P02111stQuarter2023.pdf (statssa.gov.za).
ABET for the employed
ABET or AET for the employed uplifts your staff. This is because adult literacy and numeracy training equips your employees with workplace literacy skills. These are the absolute bare minimum in terms of proficiencies that employees need to perform at their peak.
There is overwhelming research that indicates that education improves earnings. However, the extent to which it does varies depending on the research cited. For example, research by Angrist and Krueger estimates that one additional year of education increases wages of citizens by 7,5%. Oreopoulos found larger returns of between 10% and 14% a year. Meanwhile, Asenfeiter and Rouses noted that an additional year of education presented a 9% increase in wages. Refer to http://www.jstor.org/cgi-bin/js.PDF (ens.fr). Also reference Estimating Average and Local Average Treatment Effects of Education when Compulsory Schooling Laws Really Matter – American Economic Association (aeaweb.org).
This is supported by research by Antman and McKenzie in 2010; Salazar and Villa in 2012; and Knab and Plum in 2010. Antman and McKenzie argued that lower wages contributed to entrapment of people in poverty. They disputed the relevance of the old adage that “anybody can make it through hard work” in a modern economy. Antman and McKenzie also showed that lower incomes trapped people in poverty. This was corroborated by Knab and Plum. They argued that being employed was not sufficient to escape poverty. Refer to Poverty traps and nonlinear income dynamics with measurement error and individual heterogeneity: The Journal of Development Studies: Vol 43, No 6 (tandfonline.com). Also reference Poverty Traps, Economic Inequality and Incentives for Delinquency by Edgar Villa, Andrés Salazar :: SSRN. EconPapers: Low-Wage Jobs – Stepping Stone or Poverty Trap? (repec.org) provides more information on the topic.
ABET develops employees
ABET or AET develops low and semi-skilled employees so that they too can play a meaningful role in the modern economy. Adult literacy and numeracy training is the only way that these employees can improve their circumstances.
A high percentage of Black South Africans are still in semi-skilled and low-skilled occupations.
A report warns that income earning in South Africa remains “heavily racialised”. White South Africans earn three times more than their Black counterparts. This income gap increased between 2011 and 2015. The average monthly earning among Black citizens, who account for 80% of the population, was R6 899. This is compared to the more than R20 000 earned by White South Africans.
Meanwhile, the richest 10% of the population own more than 85% of household wealth. This is while half of the population has more liabilities than assets. That gap is higher than any other country for which sufficient data is available. The richest 1% in South Africa have likely increased their share of wealth since the end of apartheid.
The report was compiled by StatisticsSA; the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit; and the Agence Francaise de Developpement. Refer to https://www.statssa.gov.za/; https://www.saldru.uct.ac.za/; and https://www.afd.fr/en.
ABET provides access to education
ABET or AET provides access to an education. Education has been directly linked to a country’s gross-domestic product (GDP).
According to a study by the University of Stellenbosch, addressing poor quality education will have a large positive impact on economic growth. A more typical level of school performance will grow our GDP by between 23% and 30%. Refer to https://resep.sun.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/wp-14-2010.pdf. The study focuses on the high cost of illiteracy and, therefore, motivates the need for adult literacy and numeracy training.
Worryingly, Black children still suffer disproportionately from poor schooling outcomes. About 40% of Black children attend quintile one schools. In 2016, the pass rate in these schools was 62,5% compared to an overall pass rate of 72,5%. Only 17% of students from these schools obtain university exemption. This is compared to the more than 90% of students who pass matric at quintile five schools, the richest. Over half of these students pass with a university exemption.
ABET provides a second chance
ABET or AET provides these adults with a second chance to access a quality education. In this way, adult literacy and numeracy training addresses education inequality in South Africa.
Due to a poor education, Black children also struggle in key subjects compared to their Coloured, Indian and White counterparts. In 2016, only 28% of Black learners passed matric with mathematics above 40%. Only 9% achieved more than 60% for the subject. This is compared to the 86% of White learners who passed mathematics at a matric level with more than 40%. Over half of these students passed mathematics as a matric subject with 60% or more.
Because of a poor school education, many Black learners also fare poorly at university. Of the Black students who had enrolled for a three-year degree at university in 2011, less than a quarter passed within the allotted three years. The proportion was 43% for White pupils.
ABET is important
If undertaken correctly, ABET or AET is an important component of the skills development pillar of B-BBEE. However, adult literacy and numeracy training are also extremely beneficial to the performance of your business. This is incentive enough for you to continue investing in skills development.
Proper training that is in line with operational needs and future growth prospects empowers staff. This is by improving knowledge and competence. Employees who feel empowered are also more engaged and, therefore, loyal members of your team. In turn, this improves staff retention levels.
Adequately trained employees also produce work of a better quality. Higher standards lead to improved customer service, in turn, resulting in an improved demand for your products or services. This, ultimately, leads to improved business performance and a positive effect on profit and shareholder value.
Employees who have completed ABET are effective communicators in both the written and spoken word. They can also read and are active listeners. Importantly, they are also logical and critical thinkers who are, therefore, able to solve problems and make sound decisions.
As the late Raymond Ackerman noted, “doing good is good business”. Ackerman was a staunch proponent of adult literacy and numeracy training for his staff. He knew that it could lead to a tertiary education.
ABET increases productivity
By developing employees’ literacy and numeracy skills, ABET or AET increases productivity of the economy.
Considering the severe skills shortages, one would assume that skills development would receive due priority from more South African companies.
Among others, skills shortages impede the country’s productivity. Notably, South Africa has the lowest productivity growth rate among emerging economies and with Brazil and Argentina the only negative rates. Student skills are below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. Only a small share of students excel and others are doing very poorly. Refer to https://www.oecd.org/southafrica/jobs-strategy-SOUTH_AFRICA-EN.pdf.
ABET is the starting point
ABET or AET is the starting point of a lifelong learning journey. Adult literacy and numeracy training equips individuals with the skills that they need to continue acquiring knowledge. This is so that they can constantly grow and develop their careers and as individuals.
It is evident that skills development needs a rethink. As a business leader recently noted, “it is time to revisit the ultimate objective of B-BBEE. This is because a lot has been lost along the way.”
There is a large mismatch between companies’ B-BBEE scorecards and the reality on the ground. This is according to Sanlam’s 2023 Transformation Gauge report [The Sanlam Transformation Gauge Home].
One of the concerns raised in the report is that the skills development component of B-BBEE was of a very low standard. Verification agencies were concerned that many companies were training for just the sake of it. There was no real intention of growing and developing employees or community members.
At 76,15%, skills development is the third-highest scoring category in the research. This indicates a fair amount of progress in terms of training of staff. However, it is not nearly enough to accelerate transformation.
When it comes to high-level occupational categories, especially at management level, white males remain dominant. This is despite initial gains by Black South Africans. Considering affirmative action policies, it was expected that by 2000, at least 32,8% of managers would be Black. The actual percentage achieved was only 9,5%. The enthusiasm with which policies of affirmative action were begun appears to have diminished over time. Refer to https://www.gtac.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/The-State-of-The-Labour-Market-in-Contemporary-South-Africa.pdf.
Sanlam’s report confirms that this is an ongoing trend. “More than half of the verification agencies said that there was a resistance to seeing Black people in leadership positions”.
The reach of ABET
It is important that the reach of ABET or AET be extended. There are more than 4 million South African adults who need adult literacy and numeracy training because they are functionally illiterate. Companies can help government to shoulder this responsibility by prioritising ABET for employees and communities programmes.
As one Captain of Industry recently noted, “all businesses have an obligation to take young unemployed adults on board and develop their skills. It costs next to nothing to train them. In doing so, we are giving them so much more than just a means of earning a livelihood. Importantly, they are receiving a quality education and, therefore, the chance of a better future. South Africa is a nation of diverse and talented people. Thus, we have so much to learn from one another. We would be able to build a much better country for all of its citizens, if we were all just willing to share our knowledge.”
Notably, functional illiteracy remains the highest among black citizens compared to other race groupings.
Functionally illiterate adults cannot engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective performance in a group and community. They are also unable to use reading, writing and calculation for their own and community’s development.
In South Africa, the level of educational attainment is used as a proxy to measure functional illiteracy levels of the citizenry. The Department of Basic Education and Statistics South Africa consider someone functionally literate if they have completed Grade 7.
Our quality ABET programmes
Our quality ABET or AET programmes are helping to transform South Africa’s economy and society.
Companies partner an adult literacy and numeracy training expert because they are serious about skills development. Our clients know that, if handled correctly, skills development and training can have a large positive impact.
It was Nelson Mandela who said that “education is the great engine of development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of a farmworker can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” Learn more about Triple E Training and our quality ABET. www.eee.co.za