How Skills Development Contributes to Economic Empowerment

Skills Development
Learners carrying out practical skills development in a workshop.

Possibly the biggest point of pain in post-democracy South Africa has been the economic empowerment of the previously disadvantaged majority of the country. There are essentially two types of economic inequalities, namely: wealth inequality and income inequality. Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) has been an insufficient legislative response to wealth and income inequality as it places an unhealthy emphasis on ownership. Wealth doesn’t arise from ownership alone; but from the ability to create cash flows, either through the clever use of assets or through the sale of that asset to a ‘better’ owner. The currently marginalised South Africans will only be the best owners of these assets if they have the skills to derive maximum benefit from ownership. Without the skills, any asset transfer made, whether for value or not, results in an albatross loss to society.

How does Skills Development Benefit Economic Empowerment?

Skills development benefits economic empowerment through a simple process: train an unskilled individual in fundamental business practices; help the trained party to set up a small business; register the small business with an incubator programme and the small business grows, and becomes incorporated in the training of other unskilled & unemployed individuals which leads to employment or the recurring of the cycle.

What Role can your Company play in Empowering Ordinary Black South Africans?

We often see too many enterprises focussing on BEE compliance and overlooking the role that they can play in proper transformation, helping to improve the state of wealth and income inequality. What companies forget is that through uplifting underprivileged black South Africans they can still be BEE compliant.

For example, a lady wanted to make a difference in her community through skills development. Through the recruitment of a group of unemployed black women, she initiated basic literacy and mathematical training. Their new-found skills inspired the group of women to start their own business that stretched from selling fresh produce, cooking and selling meals, producing and distributing weaved baskets and beaded products, to crafting and selling wooden sculptures.

The women, however, lacked basic business practice skills to grow their enterprises. It was recommended that a Business Practice NQF learnership should be considered, and a year later the group of women could all start seeing small profit margins. One of the ladies who made and sold beaded items was incorporated into an incubator programme and later became a small business owner and a preferred provider of beaded products that were used as promotional items. Today this woman runs a business that provides several major corporate gifting suppliers with custom-made beaded products that sit on the desks of executives internationally. She employs 50 other women from the same community to assist in crafting the products that are in high demand.

The Benefits of Community Development through Skills Development for your Business

What are the benefits of community development through skills development for your business? Your company complies with four elements of the BEE scorecard if you embark on a similar journey as our client did: skills development, socio-economic development, enterprise development, and preferential procurement.

Without being obsessed with compliance, and focus on true economic empowerment, that ultimately leads to the elimination of wealth and income inequality, your business can still become BEE compliant.


The Tiso Skills Fund is a company that is established to complement the work of the Tiso Foundation Charitable Trust by trying to make a lasting impact on the youth, society and under-resourced communities through their programmes. The Tiso Skills Fund offers implementation, quality assurance, and management services to organisations with regards to their B-BBEE scorecard points in the area of skills development.

Are you ready to embark on further tertiary studies, artisan learnership or apprenticeship, or are you an existing student? Is one of your biggest challenges to obtain funding to help you on this journey? The Tiso Skills Fund is compiling a database of unemployed black African, Coloured and Indian people as well as people with disabilities, which are aligned with B-BBEE and employment equity legislation who are interested in further tertiary education, learnerships, and apprenticeships or to obtain a new skill.

This database would be used to offer qualifying candidates bursaries and scholarships as well as assist where possible, with obtaining permanent employment after completing the relevant studies/apprenticeship.

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