Skills development improves productivity

Skills development improves countries’ productivity and their ability to compete at a global level. This, in turn, attracts more foreign direct investment and the creation of better jobs for countries’ citizens. As part of this virtuous cycle, both the private and public sectors also invest further in skills development. In this way, economic productivity and employability continue to improve for existing and the next generation of workers.

Notably, young and inexperienced individuals are also absorbed into the economy. They too are, therefore, provided an opportunity to earn a livelihood, as well as to hone and enhance their skills on a continuous basis. In doing so, they can grow and develop as professionals and take on additional responsibilities to earn more and improve their circumstances. Moreover, they also provided an opportunity to play a meaningful role in the economy and its
development for existing and the next generation of workers.

This scenario is particularly relevant to South Africa where youth unemployment is very high. Statistics South Africa provides an indication of the extent of the challenge that the country is facing. Of the 10-million South Africans aged between 15 and 24 years, only 2,5 million are employed. Worryingly, as many as 7,7-million of these individuals are inactive because they are discouraged from seeking work. Many of these individuals do not have adequate basic skills, including English literacy and numeracy. They, therefore, do not believe that they will ever find a job in this modern economy.

Skills development starts with ABET

Skills development starts with adult basic education and training (ABET) for many South Africans. There are numerous citizens of the country of working age who are completely illiterate or functionally illiterate. People who are functionally illiterate have a very basic understanding of English literacy and numeracy. Therefore, they cannot apply these skills in real-life situations.

This includes in the modern workplace that relies heavily on advanced
skills. At the most basic level, all members of staff, including your low skilled employees, need to be proficient in English literacy and numeracy. This is so that they can communicate, read and listen effectively to avoid misunderstandings that lead to costly mistakes, bottlenecks and accidents. Employees use their numeracy skills to think logically and critically. Numeracy skills also enable workers to find solutions to typical challenges that
they encounter in their jobs. Equipped with basic skills, your employees can also work with technology. Employees who have sound workplace literacy skills are also more engaged.


They are, therefore, happier, less stressed and more loyal members of your team. Importantly, employees who have a good grasp of English literacy and numeracy can continue learning. One of the ultimate objectives of any quality adult basic education and training (ABET) programme is to instil a passion for learning among learners.

Skills development for economic change

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Skills development is an important driver of structural economic change that will transfer all components of production from lower to higher value activities.

Adult basic education and training (ABET) equips employees with the English literacy and numeracy proficiencies that they need to learn skills that are required by high value economies. Among others, they include cognitive, socio-emotional, technical and digital skills. Individuals who have cognitive skills understand complex ideas and can adapt
efficiently to the environment. They are also able to learn from experience and reason.

Other cognitive skills include foundational literacy and numeracy. This reinforces the importance of adult basic education and training (ABET). Quality adult basic education and training (ABET) focuses specifically on imparting English literacy and numeracy skills. Other cognitive skills include creativity, critical and logical thinking, as well as problem-solving capabilities. These are also covered by adult basic education and training (ABET). Equipped with socio-emotional skills, individuals are able to navigate interpersonal and social situations efficiently. These skills include an ability to lead, work in teams and a determination to succeed.

Meanwhile, technical skills encompass the knowledge, expertise and interactions required to perform specific tasks. Employees who have technical skills have also mastered the use of materials, tools or technologies that are needed to perform specific jobs. Digital skills involve the ability to access, manage, understand, integrate, communicate, evaluate and create appropriate information in a safe manner.

Digital skills rely on cognitive, socio-emotional, technical and digital skills and are becoming more important in economies that are increasingly digitalising their processes. Most South African industries are digitalising to improve productivity, efficiency and accuracy, while also improving health and safety. Among these industries are mining, agriculture, manufacturing and, to a certain degree, construction. They are also large employers of low skilled workers who need to be equipped with skills to adapt to this change.

Skills development is essential

Skills development is essential. Equipping people with skills also helps to address rising inequality. South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Inequality has actually grown since the first democratic elections in 1994. Growing inequality is being fuelled by unemployment and income disparities. This is considering the oversupply of unskilled labour and acute shortage of sophisticated skills. Statistics South Africa provides more reading on this topic and further motivates the need for skills development.

Skills development lags worldwide

Skills development lags worldwide. South Africa is not the only country that is struggling with skills development. Well over 700-million people of working age throughout the world do not have basic literacy and numeracy skills. They are, therefore, unable to read and write and they do not possess basic numeracy skills. This is about 18% of the worldwide population.

However, some experts believe that the number of global citizens who do not possess English literacy and numeracy skills can actually be significantly higher. This is if literacy levels are measured via direct assessments. Meanwhile, large-scale global assessments of adult skills show skills mismatches. There is also a huge variation in the returns to education across fields of study, institutions and population groups. Companies in many developing countries report that a lack of skilled workers is a significant hurdle. It is not only hindering productivity and efficiency, but also their ability to innovate.

ABET and skills development

ABET remains an important form of skills development. Many companies correctly view adult basic education and training (ABET) as a type of human capital. This is considering that employees are given the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge that improves their economic value. Adult basic education and training (ABET) is, therefore, no different to other types of workplace training programmes geared at higher-skilled members of staff. Importantly, English literacy and numeracy training also equips employees with skills that they need for personal growth and to improve society at large. Like other skills development programmes, it needs to be constantly monitored and adjusted to adapt to changing economic, societal and individual interests, as well as contexts.

Triple E Training is a leading provider of adult English literacy and numeracy training. Learn more about Triple E Training and our unique training solutions which continue to adapt to the needs of industry. www.eee.co.za.

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