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Training the deskless 

How can 72% of South Africa’s working class that does not have a desk play a crucial role in the economy? MICHAEL HANLY, New Leaf Technologies MD, has some answers.

Statistics show that 72% of South Africa’s working class does not have a desk.

Given the crucial role the deskless workforce plays in our economy, this percentage is deeply troubling.

Citizens working on the frontlines of backbone industries like agriculture, security, mining, health and construction need to be empowered through skills development if South Africa is to truly address unemployment and poverty and bolster economic growth.

The absence of desks signifies more than just the physical; it represents a major gap in workers’ access to digital tools and resources essential for modern learning.

There is a critical need for skilled workers, and without the requisite technical literacy, South Africa’s broader economic challenges will intensify.

These days, digital education is a human right, and the more companies that take responsibility for digital education, the better.

What organisations must understand is that even with load-shedding and issues with internet connectivity, access to technology is only ever going to improve. It is only a matter of time before connectivity woes become a thing of the past.

Michael Hanly Leaf Technologies MD.

In the interim, we need to look at opportunities to look at innovative solutions that can bridge the gap.

Mobile technologies, for example, can be used to deliver eLearning to deskless workers because smartphones are common in even low-LSM demographics.

One of the drawbacks of traditional learning is that it is costly on many fronts. Accommodation, catering and travelling is expensive.

Workers, particularly those in companies that have branches in various geographical locations, also may not be able to access classroom-based education and even if they do, internet connectivity might be poor or even restricted.

Furthermore, this type of learning in a workplace environment impacts productivity since workers are not at their stations. In essence, the company incurs costs before training has even begun.

The focus needs to shift to the deskless generation because it is a reservoir of potential and talent. eLearning satisfies this need because not only is it cheaper but offers numerous other advantages.

Workers come from a diverse range of cultures, and the software allows them to be trained in multiple languages. eLearning also offers flexibility, ensuring that employees do not have to spend hours or days away from their jobs.

One of its biggest benefits is the level of consistency it brings. Companies might offer training during the onboarding process but from that point on employees are pretty much left alone to learn on the job. This may see them picking up bad habits from their colleagues and a business may have absolutely no way of controlling the situation.

While leaving things up to the intuition of the individual can be beneficial, in this instance standardisation is needed to steer the company towards performance and good workplace attitudes.

There is a saying I enjoy that I believe applies well in this context: “How, based on industry, culture and environment, can we keep knowledge and skills from manifesting into yesterday?”

This needs due consideration at the decision-making level. There are ways of advancing and supporting the “new now” through more tactical and streamlined training.

By inspiring the entire workforce, we can address some of the underemployment and unemployment challenges we face as a nation. It can change the performance of our companies.

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