This is according to Gerrie van Biljon, executive director at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says education remains a major challenge in South Africa and has a direct impact on the current skills shortage in various facets of the local economy. “The challenges present in the sector however provide opportunities for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs to meet the growing need to improve and expand the sector, as well as fill the gap that public schooling leaves to deliver access to lifelong learning, education and training to students.”
Van Biljon adds that entrepreneurs have the opportunity to provide additional facilities and services to aspiring learners and thereby increase the country’s knowledge and skillset base. “Given some matriculants without a National Senior Certificate are unable to enroll for a university qualification, they may consider other education or training facilities to further their studies. This may vary from a hotel school to graphic design, and this offers entrepreneurs opportunities to provide a service to this market.
“With many young South Africans also realising that a matric is no longer sufficient to ensuring a sound career, specialist training becomes an attractive option. Entrepreneurs can satisfy this growing need by offering either short or long specialty courses.”
He explains that the lack of skills is not only detrimental to economic growth, but that there is a direct correlation between the level of education of a country and a strong middle class. “In South Africa, productivity is a major issue which affects global competitiveness and a higher level of education will counter this issue. Education is an investment in human capital and the dividends are a higher level of productivity, economic growth and ultimately a better living standard for a country’s people.”
Education and improving the skills levels is the responsibility of all, says van Biljon. “Education does not stop with Government, and other role players, namely trade unions, the business sector and industry representatives, should make a positive contribution and contribute to take on this challenge.”
Van Biljon says that the recently launched R150 million Business Partners Limited Education Fund is specifically aimed at financing businesses such as privately owned schools, colleges, educational buildings and student accommodation, and provide support for entrepreneurs who want to augment the shortcomings in the South African education system.