Online courses fill a gap

In Namibia, challenges persist, particularly in freight forwarding, supply chain management, and logistics due to a shortage of skilled professionals. And as technology evolves, the need for these specialised skills becomes increasingly apparent, says Juliette Fourie, managing director of Metro Minds.

“The technology advancements taking place in Namibia will need a certain skill set to adapt and embrace. The positive developments and economic growth that the country is experiencing will also require new skills sets like leadership, strategic planning and good management and financial practices. Currently, there are only two universities in Namibia – the University of Namibia and the Namibia University of Science and Technology – where you can only study a master’s degree in supply chain with only a few private providers focusing on freight forwarding and customs compliance.”

With this in mind, Metro Minds has broadened its scope, with the QCTO Accredited NQF 5 Clearing & Forwarding Agent, BCom Freight Forwarding and Customs Compliance, numerous short courses, and interactive software available online. This allows countries across Africa to access the necessary means to improve skills. “The focus for Africa is bigger than ever as various countries’ economic outlook is stronger than South Africa. We have shown many successes in recent Africa projects and will continue our drive on quality skills programmes.”

According to Fourie, Namibia is undergoing significant shifts across various sectors. Renewable energy is emerging as a key focus, leveraging the country’s abundant solar and wind energy potential to meet energy needs sustainably. Government initiatives and private sector investments are propelling this transition towards renewable sources. Namibia’s mining industry, particularly uranium and diamond mining, remains a vital pillar of the economy, with increased exploration activities and investments driven by rising global demand for minerals. Namibia’s natural landscapes, wildlife, and cultural heritage are attracting growing numbers of tourists. The tourism sector is experiencing steady growth, with a commitment to sustainable practices to preserve the environment and cultural assets.

Namibia is embracing technological advancements, evident in the increasing digitisation across industries. Innovations in e-commerce, digital payment systems, and telecommunications infrastructure are fostering economic growth and efficiency, aligning Namibia with global technological trends.The economic outlook also remains promising, despite challenges. “The government’s commitment to infrastructure development and economic diversification initiatives sets a positive trajectory for long-term growth and stability.”

Namibia’s economy is gradually diversifying beyond traditional sectors like mining, with a heightened emphasis on renewable energy, tourism, and technology-driven industries,” says Fourie. “In light of all the trends and developments in the country, training institutes have various avenues for skills development to explore. Tailored training programmes can address skill shortages and enhance workforce capabilities in this crucial sector.”

Fourie says despite challenges such as infrastructure limitations and skills shortages, Namibia’s logistics sector presents opportunities for skills development in supply chain management, freight forwarding, and logistics planning. “As Namibia embraces technological advancements, there is a demand for skilled professionals in areas such as e-commerce, digital marketing, and telecommunications. Training programmes in digital skills, cybersecurity, and data analytics can empower individuals to leverage technology effectively and drive economic growth and efficiency.”

Hire slow and train to stay

A successful talent pipeline that keeps a company moving forward requires a minimum of three years to achieve, says Juliette Fourie, CEO and founder of Metro Minds. Such a pipeline allows not only for talented prospects to be identified early, but also to be retained and aligned to a business strategy.

“The recruitment for the first year of talent is therefore extremely important,” says Fourie, indicating these are the employees identified to keep, grow and develop the company. Training, she says, plays a critical role in such a pipeline, ensuring that staff are aligned to the business strategy. “Strategies are often focused on compliance rather than what the business needs. There are wonderful vehicles like learnerships, internship, graduate programmes and simulations which can assist in such a strategy.”

Fourie is a firm believer in the ‘hire slow and train to stay’ principle. “People are far more productive and perform much better when they are invested in. ”Recruiting and then training staff, however, is not always an easy task for any business. “There are numerous challenges,” explains Fourie. “The numeracy and literacy proficiencies from school leavers certainly is one. It is not great and really has an impact on basic calculation and communication skills. Secondly, graduates entering the workplace with no experience but with a perception of quick and instant growth into an organisation can also be difficult to manage.”

Studies indicate that more than 50% of new, inexperienced job entrants lack critical thinking, 46% lack industry experience and 45% don’t have enough general business acumen. Without a formal talent pipeline that is actively recruiting and training new staff, companies can find themselves dealing with serious skills gaps. “The majority of new hires require extra coaching and training to get them up to speed,” says Fourie. “One of our big challenges, however, is funding models versus strategy for development,” says Fourie.

“A lot of drive for training comes from whether an organisation has received Seta funding or not. The BBBEE scores are also important to them and training is determined dependent on how many points are gained.” Whilst this is completely understandable, it does however make planning an academic year extremely difficult – especially to transfer skills from one year to the next into new qualifications. According to Fourie, Metro Minds continues to focus on its digital platform as well as virtual reality learning methodologies, a growing industry trend.

Supply chain simulation programme set for launch

Metro Minds is set to launch a supply chain simulation programme within the next few months following increased demand from the industry for training and skills development. According to Lynne Shale, the company’s senior logistics facilitator, this comes as the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market continues to grow, develop and change in line with heightened consumer expectations.

“Consumers are applying more pressure on the retail stores to be able to order globally as well as online, and are demanding more variety at a faster-moving pace. This puts pressure on the industry for constant, effective timeous deliveries.” She said this demand along with the highly competitive retail market was having an effect throughout the supply chain. “Distribution centres are having to constantly adapt operationally as well as logistically. Communication, real-time visibility, improved technology, location of facilities, route and load planning are of paramount importance,” said Shale. “Skills development in logistics is critical as this part of the supply chain is key to delivering customer satisfaction to all role players within the FMCG supply chain.”

Metro Minds CEO Juliette Fourie said the company was continuously launching new programmes to assist with supply chain optimisation.“Accelerated learning programmes like simulation are very valuable in this environment making it imperative to use training providers that can customise according to your environment,” she said.

Don’t let compliance issues overshadow strategic objectives

Training should be the number one priority for businesses in the current skills-deficient environment. It’s an area that has become extremely complicated in recent years, according to Juliette Fourie, CEO of Metro Minds. “Even though some organisations have well-defined talent pipelines and methodologies to improve skills development, it is very much guided by funding models from Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas), B-BBEE compliance targets, employment equity and the reality of cash flow and profit margins,” she said. But when the focus became too heavily reliant on meeting compliance targets rather than following a long-term business strategy, the skills in demand were driven by a false sense of direction, she added.

“Skills are still in massive demand. We urge organisations to look at their skills and talent pipelines and rather start with their business strategy because the rest will fall into place when the strategy is implemented correctly,” she said. Metro Minds operations director Samantha Dorrington agrees. She believes that looking at the calibre of talent and education levels coming through the system, the responsibility has shifted to the private sector to look after the skills demand. “Organisational culture plays a large role in the drive towards filling the skills demand and we are directly experiencing the difference between “compliance-driven” students and “well thought-through business strategy” students.”

At the same time, skills development had become a huge compliance tick for businesses for various reasons, said Fourie. “Training providers are regulated by inconsistent processes that hinder the learning process rather than advancing it. Due to the compliance laundry list, the need for training is expressed in financial targets, rather than a long-term invested education and development plan. This makes it difficult to plan and have sustainability in the business.”

GAP programme exposes school leavers to logistics

In a bid to address the logistics industry skills deficit and attract more school leavers to the industry, Gauteng-based specialist freight and logistics training company, Metro Minds, has launched a new GAP year programme. “The programme focuses on exposing school leavers to the different disciplines of any business, aiming to ignite a new thinking process with exposure to problem-solving, decision-making and serving the larger society – the soft skills that school leavers are not exposed to during their secondary education,” says Metro Minds CEO, Juliette Fourie.

The GAP year was designed to provide school leavers with a choice of careers in the freight and logistics industry, as well as expose them to the realities of the workplace, and highlight opportunities in new venture development, says Fourie.“The GAP year is followed by a simulated industry-related qualification which focuses on industry-specific qualifications.” She says the simulation portion of the course is completed within a consecutive three-month period following direct exposure to the workplace.

Fourie points out that Metro Minds has been encouraging companies to look at simulation solutions for graduates entering their workplace to fill the gap between the academic and theoretical knowledge they have and the lack of industry knowledge, decision-making, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Largely based on its simulation programmes, Metro Minds has, to date, won three innovation awards. “We continue to invest in new and innovative ways to implement better learning solutions,” says Fourie, noting that its new offering includes an interactive digital learning experience which incudes simulation.

“We recognise that people want to be exposed to self-taught processes but still experience something practical with valuable human engagement.” Fourie adds that the online and digital experiences are an extension of Metro Minds’ learning methodologies. “It does not replace our popular contact sessions but, instead, becomes part of our accelerated learning process,” she says.

Degreed job seekers need workplace readiness

Recruiters are increasingly looking to appoint people with degrees, but even a formal tertiary education does not equip new job entrants with workplace readiness and an innate understanding of the industry, according to Juliette Fourie, CEO of specialist industry training company, Metro Minds.

“We believe that simulation and work readiness programmes to address the gap in skills will become more popular. The more practical skills the new recruit arrives with, the better,” she said, adding that while artificial intelligence was “very real”, the freight and logistics industry still needed people to perform certain tasks.

“It is not necessarily the technical knowledge that lets the employer down but the behavioural part which is driven by emotions and attitude,” she said. Fourie pointed out that Metro Minds had extended its training programmes from the traditional skills analysis, recruitment, gap year, talent pipeline management offerings into simulated learning spaces and interactive online programmes. “We also still function as a faculty in the higher education space with private universities,” she said.

Training provider adds focus on school leavers

Building talent and delivering work-ready individuals in the Cape region has seen training solutions provider Metro Minds change tack ever so slightly, now introducing programmes for school leavers. Having opened an office and training centre in Milnerton in Cape Town, Johannesburg-headquartered Metro Minds has significantly expanded its footprint in the Cape, says CEO and founder Juliette Fourie. “From an educational perspective we have worked hard to shift our focus from learnership programmes to a few steps earlier.”

Fourie said the company had developed several bridging programmes aimed at school leavers. “We will be hosting these programmes to make sure youth wanting to enter the workplace are more equipped and ready to take up the challenges that they often face,” she explained. “Instead of picking up the pieces when they are already on a learnership or intern programme, we would like to be part of the foundation journey just as they leave matric and get them work wise, work smart and work ready.”

Fourie said the decision to open a permanent office in the Cape was paying off, with several networking breakfasts and power hours planned for the year. The company’s newly developed simulator training based on accelerated learning – set to be implemented early in 2017 – would also be the start of driving a different education behaviour into the future, she added.

“The simulator can provide an imitation of the real work environment. This could create strong talent pipelines and also address business skills gaps like critical thinking, problem-solving, decision making and leadership development,” she said.

We would like to be part of the foundation journey just as they leave matric.– Juliette Fourie

Trade finance courses on offer

Training provider Metro Minds has developed a range of trade finance courses, drawing on the expertise of industry specialists to create relevant content. “Cash, risk and how to use financial information for planning and strategy are key focus areas in our programmes,” says Metro Minds CEO Juliette Fourie.

“Over the years freight forwarders have acted as financial institutions for their clients and this has placed significant risk on their shoulders. Traders should understand that the same principles apply whether they’re using banks or a third party handling their risk on a cash and outlay of money for services basis.” The company’s three programmes are based on different outcomes, says Fourie. “Our one-day ‘Finance in the freight forwarding environment’ course was designed and developed eight years ago with the input of some of the industry’s financial heads. Every link in the logistics chain should understand the impact of cash and risk on the business and how to cut costs through efficiencies, which is what this course is all about.”

‘Finance for business survival’ targets line managers and anyone who needs to manage a profit and loss report and compile budgets. “The objective is to provide the student with a simple and systematic way to analyse statements and make day to day decisions. The third programme, ‘Estimate Essentials’, focuses on how the forwarder can provide traders with cost estimates for importing or exporting their goods. We place a lot of emphasis on how Incoterms are used and how these affect risk, control and costs for the trader,” said Fourie.

Every link in the logistics chain should understand the impact of cash and risk on the business. – Juliette Fourie