Skills shortage is a euphemism….
* By Tahir Sema
Jimmy Manyi president of the Black management forum on the contrary to popular statistics, states that there is no skills shortage in South Africa. Speaking at a conference on Thursday night he strongly opposed the research presented by the Grant Thornton institute that suggested the skills shortage in South Africa is a serious problem for the country.
According to statistics presented by Manyi which was conducted in 2006, the top management positions in the country are still dominated by whites. 63% of top management positions were occupied by whites and 58% of those who received senior management promotions were also whites.
Manyi’s claim that “the skills shortage is a euphemism for we need more white people” is based in part on the above statistics and the many inherent stereotypes that still exist in South Africa today. South Africans still believe that “black people are lazy and incompetent”. He says in society there exists an element of mistrust when it comes to blacks. People are unwilling to give them a chance. Black Africans are often limited to the jobs lower down and rarely promoted to managerial positions within a company, or departments with big budgets as there is a fear that the black person will “mess up”.
According to Jimmy Manyi when we talk about skills we often focus entirely on the people coming out of university. By using university graduates as the basis for a survey to measure skills shortage “we taper the survey process and conclude that there is a skills shortage.” There are millions of blacks that have skills yet they are unemployed. According to stats presented by Manyi 82% of companies are not compliant with skills development yet ironically these are the companies complaining the loudest about the skills shortage.
Double standards in the work place by employers often see black Africans turned down when applying for jobs and told they do not have the relevant education even though they may have the skills required. Manyi believes that black people should be given a chance just like white people were given the chance to succeed in the work place. People should not be hired based only on their degrees, there are a range of other factors according to Government that should be taken into account, such as prior learning, previous experience and capacity to acquire competence in a reasonable time.
Manyi quoted many examples of black Africans including former President Nelson Mandela who was given a chance to succeed; “no one turned Mandela down saying that you first have to have the relevant experience in running a country”. Similarly there are many top achievers working in fields not related to their qualification, nonetheless they are doing a sterling job.
“There is a serious amount of underutilization of blacks,” therefore Manyi states that there is no skills shortage. To blame for this urban legend is none other than “institutional racism” as employers are still biased against Black African Academic institutions and “racial stereotyping” that is still so rife in our country.