The unemployment statistics in our country are alarming, and become more so each quarter. Now more than ever, we need skills, and opportunities.
Conversely, other figures and statistics show growth opportunities. Estimates value South Africa’s logistics sector at around R480 billion, with road freight by far the biggest industry within the sector. At any given time, there are thousands of trucks on South Africa’s roads, transporting a full spectrum of essential goods required to keep store shelves stocked, lights on, and businesses running.
Of course, these vehicles don’t drive themselves. That requires the expert skills of a truck driver. But according to Arnoux Maré, founder and CEO of Innovative Learning Solutions and Innovative Staffing Solutions, which employs over 7 500 truck drivers – until recently, the full value of South Africa’s thousands of truck drivers has been largely overlooked, as have their skills and career development needs.
A knowledgeable and reliable driver on the road is a necessity in SA to ensure the existence of the industry. But, well-rounded driver training involves more than just handing the employee keys and admonishing them to “Be safe out there!” Driver training is arguably the single biggest intervention that can be made to reduce South Africa’s high road accident rate. Unexperienced and untrained drivers lead to poor driving skills, in fact, 62% of accidents involve trucks.
Maré explains that the challenge in upgrading the driving skills of Code 14 professional drivers in South Africa lies in the shortage of such drivers and how he found the opportunity, in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic arriving on our shores, to develop a learning academy for drivers to address their skills gaps.
“There is a shortage of at least 3 000 drivers in the South African transport sector, a shortage which leads to unskilled drivers being recruited. And, drivers are in such high demand that employers do not have the capacity to allow them time off to enhance their skills and improve their abilities. They are required to be behind the wheel every available moment. Turning it from being ‘part of the problem’ to being ‘part of the solution’ requires inculcating long-term thinking that values expert driving skills” argues Maré.
As part of this long-term thinking, Maré established a new driver training and testing centre in Boksburg, Gauteng, aimed not only at South African Code 14 truck drivers, but training Transport Education Training Authority (TETA) accredited skills to a market including Code 10 drivers. “I believe I have been re-engineering the art of ‘adapt or die’ to ‘adapt and thrive,” he adds.
Maré says Covid-19 was a wake-up call. With almost the entire economy in lockdown, trucks were in many instances the only means of keeping the country’s economy ticking, ensuring food, coal and medical supplies can still reach businesses and consumers. “Many increasingly recognised that without skilled, committed truck drivers, most of the commerce in South Africa would grind to a halt. This has pushed driver training to the top of the priority list of the transport sector, where it belongs.”
Thousands of drivers now have access to invaluable skills development, advanced driving courses, and employability enhancement opportunities.
Maré says: The accredited centre was established by ILS to give truck drivers and their employers affordable access to training, while making these drivers and our roads, safer. This adds tangible value to the companies that employ them. ILS believe forward-looking employers would be willing to fund special designed courses to fit their needs and benefit them by ensuring safe delivery of all cargo, without delays.”
The courses go beyond theoretical and practical driving experience, but also get unemployed drivers ready for the market with soft skills. The centre offers a variety of courses many of which simultaneously put unemployed drivers’ medicals and other testing, providing a hugely valuable CV ‘add-on’ that significantly enhances their job prospects. By combining theoretical and practical training with well-qualified tutors and driver trainers, ILS produces self-empowered drivers who are encouraged to perform better in the market, uplifting the sector overall, he advances.
The company’s confidence in its training is evident through its ability to ensure gainful employment of about 1 200 unemployed ILS-trained drivers, including a feisty female trainee who now works as an ILS driver trainer, assisting young drivers with their courses.
“With South Africa’s employment rate at a record low, ILS is doing a great job of curbing unemployment,” emphasises Maré, highlighting the company’s appetite for growth.
ILS is currently the largest Code 14 truck driver training facility of its type in Africa. Since opened its doors more than 8 000 drivers have been trained by ILS, and Maré says demand for the ILS courses is growing monthly with more businesses opting to train their drivers at the facility. https://ils-rsa.co.za/