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Woolworths offers FET lecturers ‘insider view’

Retail sector to benefit from Woolworths high impact skills development initiative. Woolworths is expanding its pioneering “Inside Retail” programme to include six further education and training (FET) colleges.

The programme, launched in 2014, seeks to provide educators with on-the-ground, practical experience of the retail environment to complement their theoretical knowledge.

Skills development is a hot topic in South Africa where there is a dearth of skilled labour across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. In recognition of this challenge, Woolworths is working in partnership with the Department of Higher Education and Training and Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) to turn the situation around in the medium to long-term to support future growth of the South African economy.

The programme’s purpose, Woolworths said, is not only to ensure the sustainability of its business, but to enhance the overall quality of the sector and skills in South Africa.

“In 2012 Education Minister Blade Nzimande called on the private sector to assist government in its quest to advance skills development in South Africa,” Sibongile Antoni, Woolworths National Learning and Development Manager.

 “We took up the challenge not only because it made sense for our business, but also for the development and sustainability of the entire industry.

“The programme targets both graduates and educators in higher education and offers a week-long, embedded course where the trainees gain some theoretical background and then head straight out onto the shop floor to put theory into practice. They experience the tensions between principle and praxis and can then apply the learnings either in the classroom as teachers, or in retail jobs, for graduates.”

Woolworths – a leader in this kind of approach to training, skills development and learning – is using the programme to create a learning value chain that builds a talent pipeline from secondary education to employment and beyond – inclusive of lecturers and teachers.

To this end the retailer has grown its financial contribution to learning and skills development year-on-year, through the Woolworths Academy, from an initial R20-million in 2009/10 to in excess of R100-million in 2014/15 – and indication of its commitment to skills development programmes and ensuring the sustainability of the retail sector.

“Woolworths’ focus is on core and scarce retail skills building both competence to perform current roles, as well as bench strength and leadership for the future,” Antoni added.

“Within the context of the South African transformation agenda, Woolworths also uses skills development to unlock transformation of the industry in line with our commitment to ensuring that our business is representative of the entire country.”

The retailer also said it made business sense to pursue this type of training. “Aside from Woolworths developing a talent pipeline aimed at ensuring the future sustainability of and professionalism in the sector, we are using training as a tool for future economic empowerment for trainees and enabling them to become empowered, economic citizens in the future, thereby contributing to South Africa’s growth.”

Participating FET colleges include the College of Cape Town, False Bay College, Northlink College, West Coast College, Boland College, and South Cape College.

The Inside Retail programme runs for a week between March 23 and 27 in Cape Town and at participating Woolworths’ stores.

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