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Short courses in the South African labour market

Oxbridge Academy has been developing its short course programme throughout the past year to include a wide range of subjects and fields of study. The reason behind this, according to the college's MD, Barend van den Berg, is in part a response to particular issues prevalent in the South African labour market.
"First and foremost," says van den Berg, "short courses are the most effective way to give someone without the resources to study a diploma or degree programme, the chance to put something on their CV." Secondly, he says, "For those already employed, these courses also offer an endless array of new skills that they can pick and choose from in a labour market starved of skilled employees."

Oxbridge Academy’s Barend van den Berg
Oxbridge Academy’s Barend van den Berg
What is a short course really worth?

At colleges across the country, short course programmes have been steadily growing in popularity, especially in the form of e-learning or distance learning programmes (BDLive, 20 January 2015). Quality short courses, according to van den Berg, are becoming more and more valuable in a labour market where there are too many unskilled workers, together with a widespread skills shortage across a number of industries. The aim of short courses is thus to allow unskilled labourer - and qualified professionals - to easily capitalise on the opportunities created by this skills vacuum.

But of course, a short course does not comprise a formal qualification. So what is a short course's actual worth, and does it really help people get ahead?

A short course is the start to something more

The latest Adcorp Employment Index stated that there is a shortage of about 432,100 technicians, 216,200 managers, and 178,400 other skilled professionals in the South African labour market. Conversely, the 967,600 manual labourers and 247,400 domestic workers in South Africa far exceed the national requirements (I-Net Bridge). Many workers falling into this latter category have fallen into the poverty trap, unable to invest any time or money in improving their occupational prospects and consequently improving their, or their dependants', livelihoods.

The worth of short courses in a South African context lies in that they are inexpensive vocational training programmes, and easily accessible via part-time distance learning. "There are no pretences that these are formal qualifications," van den Berg says about the courses, "because their actual worth lies in the kind of training they provide, and the potential that such training holds for real professional growth."

Oxbridge Academy's short course curriculum is aimed at helping students develop tangible, industry-specific skills. This is especially valuable to those already working, but looking for a way to get a leg up in a labour market saturated with unskilled labourers. Taking a Sales Management, Safety Audit Inspection, or even Catering Management course can be just what you might need to start moving forward.

"A short course might be just enough," says van den Berg, "to start that chain of events that will lead someone to a successful future career. If you are working on the factory floor, for example, completing a short course in Logistics & Supply Chain Management might help you secure a promotion, or take a definite step towards one."

"You can always go on to do a certificate, or even a national qualification, if need be," says van den Berg. With skill levy requirements, employers are often also eager to further the training of employees who show an aptitude for learning. In this regard, studying has major symbolic value, as it is a demonstration of dedication, passion, intelligence, and the kind of self-empowerment that actually makes others want to contribute to your success.

Short courses for working professionals

The growing popularity of short courses is also largely due to working professionals, many of whom already have formal qualifications, enrolling for them. In an increasingly flexible labour market, it has become more imperative than ever for professionals, in whichever tier of whichever industry, to continuously develop and update their skills in order to remain relevant. Short skills development courses taken part-time via distance learning are an easy way to maintain this kind of professional momentum.

A short course can give you specialised knowledge in your field, such as taking a Personnel Training Course if you work in HR. Or it can give you knowledge of other fields, turning you into a multi-skilled, and consequently highly valued, professional. Taking a Financial Management, or Basic Accounting, short course can be highly advantageous when applying for work in a number of non-financial positions. Additionally, Oxbridge Academy also offers a number of valuable soft-skills programmes, containing everything from business writing to public speaking training, through the Oxbridge Training Institute.

Barend van den Berg's aim with the new short course programme is to offer at least one short course in each field of study at Oxbridge Academy. Though some courses are still in development, Oxbridge Academy already offers over 40 short courses in the following professional fields:
  • Advertising and Marketing Management
  • Bookkeeping & Accounting
  • Business Management
  • Childhood Development
  • Contact Centre Operations
  • Education and Training
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Human Resource Management
  • Legal Studies
  • Project Management
  • Public Relations
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Tourism and Hospitality
    See the full course list here.
To van den Berg, developing a comprehensive short course curriculum is very important. "The responsibility of colleges in South Africa does not end at meeting the needs of individual students," says van den Berg, "We also have to think about how our curriculum can be a response to the needs of South African society and the national economy." To find out more about Oxbridge Academy and its courses, you can visit: www.oxbridgeacademy.edu.za.

19 May 2015 10:29

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