“While schooling is necessary to prepare young adults to function effectively in the world, workplace training and skills development play a crucial role in enhancing peoples’ ability to perform optimally in the world of work and, ultimately, achieve their full potential,” says Chantell Malherbe, operations director at EIE Group.
“Where some sectors view training and skills development as mere tick-box exercises, there is overwhelming evidence that fostering lifelong learning amongst employees is highly effective in reducing work-related accidents, increasing overall productivity and boosting operational efficiency, especially in the material handling and industrial industries,” she explains.
Malherbe says in August 2019, the company launched the EIE Training Academy in Johannesburg to ensure the highest training standards for its employees, with technical training, leadership development training, sales training and evolving to deliver IT skills development.
“We knew that to provide optimal levels of training, we had to invest significantly in the facility. This meant employing certified trainers, obtaining the right equipment, creating well-equipped workshops and purchasing furniture to ensure we had a world-class facility.”
Ongoing training has been instrumental in ensuring the EIE Group’s technicians remain abreast of technological advancements. To determine what level of training each technician requires, the Tech Tier programme – a technician competency evaluation and grading system – was introduced to ensure clear skills mapping, recognition and ongoing formal technical skills development.
Malherbe says all technicians are required to take part in the Tech Tier programme and assessed annually against technology, industry and business-aligned criteria and standards. “Technicians are ranked according to various grades from apprentice level to Tech Tier 4.
At Tier 4 – the highest level achieved by those who demonstrate exemplary industry knowledge and skills – technicians will have displayed top performance and attained master status for OEM certifications; obtained a minimum of four valid trade development certifications; and achieved ASEC (After Sales Service Evaluation and Certification) Diamond status.
“Notably, to develop young talent at apprentice level, we have run a successful apprenticeship programme, which is one of the academy’s flagship initiatives. It sees youth being recruited to undergo technical and skills training over a four-year period, culminating in Red Seal certification and possible permanent employment in one of the EIE Group businesses,” she adds.
The training programmes are bolstered by competitions such as the National Technician Competition, which encourages technicians to be the best in their respective fields.
As an advocate for female empowerment in a largely male-dominated industry, EIE Group was delighted when a female technician was recognised as the top electrical technician nationally in 2019.
Today, the training facility not only offers technician-based skills development, but also IT training, sales and leadership development. “After realising that many employees needed to sharpen their IT skills, we established a dedicated IT room at the facility and brought an IT systems training specialist on board,” says Malherbe.
In addition, EIE Group’s sales cadet programme sees potential salespeople embarking on a year-long internship to potentially become full-time junior sales team members within the Group. To date, 10 graduates have completed the programme, with all being assimilated into the company.
Similarly, EIE Group identifies potential leaders who are enlisted for the Group’s Emerging Leaders programme with a view to fulfilling more senior roles in the business. On completing the programme - and still displaying the appetite to grow - they are enrolled in the Group’s Leadership programme, which has been running since 2007.
Malherbe highlights that due to the training and development programs offered by the business there are many success stories of employees who came into the business in junior positions and are now in senior management roles.
While the national lockdown impacted some of the training initiatives, EIE Group’s training department found ways around this by providing tablets and other technologies to continue with the theory-based aspect of training programmes and conduct post-training tests for those who were unable to be on-site.
“The participation amongst technicians, in particular, was astounding. In the first 21 days of the hard lockdown, the training department initiated 13 programmes and conducted 42 sessions, with as many as 473 attendees taking part,” notes Malherbe.
Since the easing of lockdown restrictions, employees have been able to resume on-site training while adhering to strict social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions.
Malherbe says the EIE Training Academy is constantly evolving to meet the training needs of the business and its employees. “We are committed to creating a competent and happy workforce, made up of people who feel they are enabled to grow personally and achieve their career goals.”