Capital Equipment News

There is a strong correlation between a skilled society and a country’s sustainable economic growth. The absence of the former inhibits the possibilities of the latter. With that in mind, Volvo Group Southern Africa is taking a leading role in skills development with a range of initiatives commended by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a recent visit to Volvo Trucks’ Durban assembly plant. By Munesu Shoko.

Tackling the skills shortage head on

At a recent presidential visit to Volvo Trucks South Africa’s Durban assembly facility, President Cyril Ramaphosa commended Volvo Group Southern Africa for its ongoing commitment to skills development, based on the company’s understanding that education is a long-term solution to resolving the acute skills shortage in the country.

In a country where 6 million young people are out of work, and 56% of the million young people entering the job market each year don’t have a matric, giving them little hope of employment, there is real need for all stakeholders: government, labour and business to pull together in the fight against both unemployment and the lack of skills that the job market requires, now and into the future. 

Skills development for the youth to open job opportunities for them is something close to President’s Ramaphosa’s heart. Since his inauguration, he has championed the Youth Employment Service (YES), said to be one of the first social compacts between government, business and labour, created to give one million youth job opportunities to succeed, which in turn will secure South Africa’s economic prosperity.

Over the next three years, the YES – led and supported by the private sector – will incentivise businesses to employ young people, giving them the chance at life-changing first work experience. In addition, to encourage demand-side job creation, companies employing black youth between 18 and 29 years of age will qualify for the Employment Tax Incentive. 

While several companies are likely to join this youth employment and upskilling initiative for the incentives that it offers, Volvo Group Southern Africa has a different view to skills development. While it is one of the first companies to raise its hand in support of the president’s initiative, the truck maker has already walked down this road for many years, having invested huge capital towards its own skills development initiatives. 

Huge commitments

In southern Africa, Volvo Group is represented by Volvo Trucks, Volvo Bus, Volvo Financial Services, Volvo Penta, as well as Volvo Financial Services and UD Trucks.  The group employs about 1 000 people across the region, including at its assembly plants in Durban (Volvo Trucks), as well as in Rosslyn (UD Trucks). 

Since 2015, Volvo Group Southern Africa has invested more than R86-million on apprenticeship training, automotive industry learnerships, disabled persons learnerships, as well as internships. The company is planning to plough another R25-million during 2018.

“During the course of the year, we will also establish a specialised Driver Training Academy to address the shortage of skilled drivers in the region, at an investment of R1,4 million,” says Torbjörn Christensson, president of the Volvo Group Southern Africa.

Christensson says the company will continue its involvement in Star for Life, a non-profit organisation that aims to provide young people in southern Africa with essential life skills, sport training and health education. “Just in three years from 2017 to 2019, we are planning to invest around R7,8-million in this very worthy cause,” says Christensson.

“Star for Life is an exemplary project that creates new opportunities for young people in South Africa to complete an education and to create good lives for themselves. In the process, opportunities arise for some of the qualified youth that completed their training through Star for Life to be employed by Volvo,” adds Christensson.

During his visit, President Ramaphosa thanked Volvo for its continued investment in the South African economy and its commitment to the empowerment and development of the country’s youth. “Volvo is one of the companies that understands that it’s not enough to invest in factories, machinery and supply chains. They believe that it is also necessary to invest in society,” he said. “It is rooted in an understanding that business is not separate from society, but inextricably bound to the fortunes of its people. As young people gain skills and work experience, businesses thrive.”

Christensson says skills development and the advancement and upliftment of the youth are matters very close to the company. “As Volvo Group Southern Africa, we are proud to say that we have been able to actively engage with local communities to implement numerous initiatives where community needs are met by our unique assets and expertise, to maximise the value created for society as a whole,” says Christensson.

Shared responsibility

According to President Ramaphosa, the greatest challenge to social development in South Africa, and to economic development, is the high rate of youth unemployment. He applauds Volvo for making youth development such an integral part of its social investment programme. “We all share the responsibility to develop the skills of young South Africans and ensure that these skills are suited to the needs of our economy, now and into the future,” he says.

President Ramaphosa is also of the view that the basic education system needs to retain more learners through to matric to improve the quality of the foundational education they receive. He further reiterates that there is need to ensure greater access to universities and colleges for those from poor and working class families. “The phased introduction of free higher education from this year promises to contribute to skills revolution in the country,” he says. “This needs to be accompanied by a concerted effort to involve the private sector in supporting and designing curricula, particularly at TVET colleges and in certain university faculties.”

He says this will ensure that young people gain the confidence, capabilities and exposure to succeed in the working environment. “That is why we have prioritised the development of pathways into work for young people. This includes the Youth Employment Service initiative, which we launched together with our social partners in March,” he says.

“This initiative, which provides work experience opportunities for young people on a scale never before seen in this country, is the result of effective collaboration between business, government and labour. It demonstrates the willingness of business to be part of finding solutions to youth unemployment,” says President Ramaphosa.

Christensson says, as a global company, with the commitment to the success of South Africa, Volvo Group Southern Africa also supports government’s initiative to focus on youth development as is envisioned in initiatives such as the proposed Youth Employment Service. “It is about creating more opportunities for the youth to grow, develop, learn and ultimately prosper,” says Christensson.

Christensson says the company is ready and willing to take hands with government to identify and create more opportunities for the youth, to start rebuilding the social fabric and economic transformation of the South African labour market. “As a global company, we are certainly proud of our business successes here in South Africa. But, we are even more proud of the difference we believe we are making by investing in skills development, youth development, and giving back to the industry and the country as a whole,” concludes Christensson.

Contact Capital Equipment News

Title: Editor
Name: Munesu Shoko
Email: capnews@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

Title: Advertising Manager
Name: Elmarie Stonell
Email: elmaries@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

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