Developing skills to meet demand

Developing skills to meet demand

If our country is to meet the challenge of building new infrastructure while upgrading existing services, developing and retaining key technical skills is crucial. CLAIRE RENCKEN explores what the future might hold for the SHEQ sector.

As Landelahni Business Leaders Amrop SA CEO Sandra Burmeister explains: “There is growing global demand for specialist engineering skills to deliver on new mega-projects. With this comes increased demand for risk management professionals, IT professionals able to support business and systems efficiencies, and executives capable of leading across multiple geographies and cultures.”

So, first, we need to invest in the right kinds of skills. Alongside the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) 20-year infrastructure plan, Burmeister believes we need a roadmap of the skills we need to invest in today. “First, we must align our educational systems to meet these requirements. Only in this way can we ensure that we have skills to support not just the building, but the maintenance and upgrading of infrastructure, now and in the future,” she says. “Further investment and spend in skills development is not just a scorecard measure. It’s an economic imperative for a sustainable infrastructure industry.”

Filling the talent pipeline

A multi-pronged approach is needed in order to do this. “This includes increasing bursary spend in core scarce skills areas of business, increasing graduate hiring and training programmes and extending retirement dates or calling back early retirees,” says Burmeister. “Companies can use smart strategies like cross-functional project teams and offshore assignments for exposure and accelerated development.”

Increase in outsourcing and partnerships

Burmeister argues that government will need to increase its capacity to manage outsourced projects and public-private partnerships. “This means an increase in commercial, technical and risk management skills,” she says. “Business – and its institutional investors – will need to learn to balance short-term profits against overall economic imperatives such as job creation and skills development.” The proportion of contractors who are paid for expertise on a project-by-project basis will continue to increase significantly. Our legislation will need to support work permits and visas where external resources are required.

Remuneration

Remuneration packages will continue to spiral for those with specialised skills demanded by the market. Skills premiums for certain core business activities will continue to rise. Says Burmeister: “A significant increase in investment in the development of graduates, young professionals and mid-tier professionals will help to balance supply and demand, and in the long run will be more cost effective. That means executive incentives should be aligned to increasing skills across the business, and not only to boosting bottom-line profits.”

Develop SHEQ professionals from within your company

Christel Fouché, founder and MD of Advantage ACT, is known for her passion in SHEQ. She has an MBA in SHE from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. Pretoria-based Advantage ACT is a SHEQ service provider and offers auditing, consulting, training and implementation products and services in the ISO (International Standards Organisation) and OHSAS (Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services) spheres. Fouché offers some advice to employers wanting to develop SHEQ professionals within their organisations: “Employers need to invest in the knowledge base of their employees. The more educated your workforce, the higher the productivity levels and worker morale, and the lower the incident rate. All of these factors contribute to the bottom line profit of the organisation. It is important from an employer point of view to determine what kinds of skills are required internally in the organisation. Employers then need to decide which institutions employees need to enrol in to further their career in SHEQ. The best qualifications at the most sought-after institutions will give you the most knowledgeable employee.”

The following courses are recommended for employees as part of their development towards becoming SHEQ professionals (this is a guideline rather than a comprehensive list):

• SHEQ induction, or awareness sessions in each of the disciplines

• SHEQ representative

• Incident investigation

• Hazard identification and risk assessment

• Supervisor or team leader

• First aid training

• Fire fighting training

• SHEQMAN (management course for first level managers)

• SHEBA (management course for middle and senior managers)

• Integrated SHEQ internal auditors’ course

• ISO 9001 implementation

• ISO 14001 implementation

• OHSAS18001 implementation

• Advanced occupational health for SHEQ professionals

• Occupational hygiene for managers

• Ergonomics

• Legislation

• Legal liability

• ETDP (education, training and development practitioner)

• Procedure writing

• Planned task observation

• Job safety analysis

• Behaviour based safety

• Critical task analysis

• Risk assessment methods (various)

• Change management

• Project management, and

• Hazardous chemical substances.

Formal career path development of a SHEQ professional (guideline only):

• Basic degree

• Post graduate certificate in SHE

• Masters in SHE

• MBA in SHE, and/or

• DBA in SHE.

Says Fouché: “Emphasise to employees that knowledge is power. It doesn’t matter where they start as long as they do. If they want to be successful in the SHEQ field, they will have to start acquiring book knowledge and not only practical experience. It is important for them to have a good balance between the two, as well as a balance between safety, health, environment and quality.”

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