Through South African history, we acknowledge that the apartheid era produced an education and training system that was fragmented, dysfunctional and unequal. Contributing to the population having low educational skills levels, which conversely produced the under-representation of black South Africans in both senior and executive levels of management. Presently the legacies of that dispensation are still prevalent, even though transformative Acts and policies have been designed and implemented to address the past injustices. Therefore, investment in training that feeds into relevant skills development should be fast-tracked in order to ensure that there is an adequate and sufficient representation of black talent at executive management levels. Equally, the skills development agenda should also focus on those skills that are key drivers for economic development.

The Human Sciences Research Council defines skills development as “enabling individuals and collectives to become fully and productively engaged in livelihoods and to have the opportunity to adapt these capacities to meet changing demands and opportunities”. It is through investment in training of the relevant skills and creation of opportunities that would serve as a vehicle to drive transformation in the corporate sector. Furthermore, the investment in training for black talent must be tailor-made to meet the demands of the labour market and subsequently contribute positively to economic development.

Research indicates that; 20% of the employed population has obtained a higher education qualification, whilst 32% has completed senior secondary education, and approximately half of the workforce does not possess a Matric certificate. This is an indication of the absurd predicament that the South African labour market is in, and furthermore, it is engulfed with a structural mismatch between labour demand and supply. The labour market displays a demand for a high skilled workforce; however, in contradiction, there exists a surplus of the low-skilled labour force. This quandary further perpetuates the challenges for black talent being absorbed in executive management levels.  

Therefore, as a matter of urgency, the country must expedite the matter of sufficient skills development and adequately respond to these challenges, more importantly as it participates in a globally competitive environment that requires a high skills base.It should equally concentrate on the local context that demands more labour-intensive, lower-wage jobs to absorb the large numbers who are unemployed and those who are vulnerable to employment and increase the levels of the youth to gain access to the labour market. 

In addressing the skills development and a mismatch challenge, a holistic approach is required which will cover the unemployed, the youth, the low-skilled, the marginalised and those in vulnerable forms of employment.

It is twenty-eight (28) years into the democratic dispensation, but transformative legislation and regulations have not been strictly adhered to. The promotion of equal opportunities and justice within the workplace, particularly in the private sector, has not transpired at an adequate pace to bear the transformation that is truly reflective of the demographics of the country.  

According to the 22nd Commission of Employment Equity (CEE) annual report, it established that; there persists a deficiency of transformation predominantly in the private sector environment; compounding the issue is the lack of adequate succession plans that focuses primarily on black people, women and people with impairment conditions. This is then a clear indication that after twenty-four (24) years of the establishment of the Employment Equity Act, the private sector significantly lags. Thus, in averting this conundrum, it should be made mandatory to rigidly enforce government regulations on transformation in all corporates in South Africa.

In addition, the year 2021 statistics from the report indicate that; 63.2% of the white population cohort is in top management, the Indian population at 10.9%, the Black population at 17% and the coloured population at 5.9%. These statistics thus paint a very bleak picture of transformation in the private sector. Therefore, interventions and solutions should move with a clear intention of capacitating and investing in the training of the relevant critical skills required in the labour market and in the economy.  The current status quo of the over-representation of the white population at top management should cease to exist; in this manner, the achievement of management control and acquiring of executive power for black professionals would be feasible.

Corporate transformation is sacrosanct and should be viewed as an ongoing strategic priority; furthermore, corporate transformation is an imperative that will assist in driving an inclusive labour market and the economy. The private sector must, therefore, constantly refine and develop African human capital and create a platform for greater participation at both senior and executive management levels.

About The Author

Xolile Kunene is the Head of Thought Leadership, Research & Programmes at the Black Management Forum. 

Xolile holds a Master’s in Public Policy-Monitoring & Evaluation degree and is a PhD candidate at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

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