One year on, the PPC Sure Academy is building skills for Africa

PPC’s SUREACADEMY offers intensive and structured Graduate Development Programme (GDP) in the various key disciplines. (Image: Supplied)

South Africa continues to grapple with an acute employment crisis. As of September 2023, more than 31.9% of the employable population remained unemployed. Worryingly, this stark figure doesn’t account for the millions of people who are underemployed, unemployable, or reliant on social welfare – mostly due to a mismatch of available skills with industry requirements.

The widening skills gap is being fuelled not just by rapid technological advancements, but also by years of deindustrialisation, which has resulted in a sharp decline in jobs within the manufacturing and mining sectors, both areas on which job creation efforts have historically been highly dependent.

As the government pursues structural reforms aimed at boosting global competitiveness, there’s a compelling need to simultaneously overhaul the country’s approach to education and skills development.

According to Elisha Sirkissoon, Lead Talent and Organisation Development for PPC Africa, this is a challenge that is too vast for the government to tackle alone. She argues that the private sector also has to step in and play a pivotal role. “Companies need to go beyond sporadic training and ad-hoc educational support,” Sirkissoon says, “they need to also make significant, strategic investments in skills training and education as an integral part of their organisational development and sustainability plans.”

She points out that PPC, southern Africa’s leading supplier of cement and related products, has taken proactive steps to act on this belief. Through its PPC Sure Academy, the company has embarked on comprehensive skills development and leadership development programmes, delivering on its own people development commitments and its broader social and economic responsibilities.

The PPC Sure Academy was born out of PPC’s organisational change framework, Jabali, which was launched in early 2021. Jabali aims to focus employees on being a purpose-led, performance-driven company, based on the understanding that a thriving business and a thriving society are inextricably linked.

Since its official launch in the first quarter of 2022, the outcomes achieved by the PPC Sure Academy have been nothing short of transformative building on the many successes of the long-standing Technical Skills Centre (TSC) Starting with leadership development courses, facilitated through strategic partnerships with the University of Stellenbosch and Dyna, the Sure Academy quickly broadened its offerings. Curriculum additions included a Graduate Development Program, a Bursary Scheme for children of non-management employees, a specialised Executive Coaching Programme to address immediate skills gaps within the organisation.

Beyond these programmes, the PPC Sure Academy is proud to house the Technical Skills Centre (TSC) under its umbrella. The TSC is accredited to offer occupational trades and training for the key technical skills needed in PPC and across the broader African economy. Three-year learnerships on offer include, electrical, fitter and turner, boilermaker and millwright trades. The Technical Skills Centre (TSC) has already produced many artisans in PPC over the years as well as partnered with the office of the premier in the Northwest province and other external customers to assist with artisan development.

The Sure Academy’s impact to date has been wide-ranging. Within just one year of its inception, three candidates have enrolled in its Executive Development Programme (EDP) and nine are part of the Senior Management Development Programme, with an additional 14 set to join within the next six months.

Additionally, 40 candidates are currently scheduled for, or participating in, the Management Development Programme (MDP), 26 are benefiting from executive coaching, over 150 people have completed Excel training, and 67 PPC leaders in supervisory positions are currently engaged in a nine-month intensive Frontline Leader Development programme.

The Sure Academy also offers a robust Graduate Development Programme aimed at growing PPC’s own talent, and nurturing talented young graduates in key areas to become future leaders. Thus far, 11 engineering, chemistry and commerce graduates have been recruited for the 24-month intensive structured programme.

“At PPC our motto is that our people are our strength, and the PPC Sure Academy demonstrates our sincere belief in this statement,” Sirkissoon says, “as well as our commitment to develop our own people and grow the skills, capabilities and competencies that South Africa and the rest of the continent need to enable sustainable economic growth and development into the future.”

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