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The 20th Anniversary Challenge of The Workplace Challenge

Vania Reyneke, Project Manager, The Green Economy Journal attended the 20th anniversary of The Workplace Challenge which was held at the Trax Interconnect Pty Ltd, a PCB fabrication company and advanced producer of printed circuit boards for companies throughout South Africa, one of the success stories of Productivity SA. Following the inception of the new Democratic Dispensation in South Africa in 1994, an urgent need was identified to transform the workplace environment and one of the interventions included the introduction of the Workplace Challenge Programme.

In 1995 SA just re-entered the world economy. The National Economic Development and Labour Council, NEDLAC decided to run with workshops and started in 11 sectors of workplace challenges; Equipment, Plastics, Footwear, Rooibosch Tea in Clan William, Stainless Steel, Fruit Packers, Textile and Fish Packaging to name a few. The DTI offered the funds and Productivity SA offered to implement the initiative. Now, 20 years later Productivity SA has assisted over 400 companies, focusing on black industrialists. 3000 Employees have benefitted from this initiative. With the assistance of government, small and medium sized enterprises have, with the assistance of this initiative managed to reduce costs and increased production. Just the mention of circuit boards and the manufacturing of them and my interest wanes, being completely techno fobic. I sit up and take note when the MD, of Trax Interconnect, Daniel Dock explains what and where some of these circuit boards are used for: -At SKA and picking up signals from our satelites, Assisting in the protection of Rhinos and our livestock. This done right here in South Africa. Like Trax, we in South Africa have Black Industrialists and competitive enterprises we are proud of.

Dr Martin Butler, head of MBA Business School, University of Stellenbosch spoke about the 4th Industrial Revolution and Productivity. Hold on, we’re moving into the future! So what? The entire world is moving forward in leaps and bounds every day. You can build a home in 24 hours! Automate mines! Control weed with precision! We need to enable people to use the technology. The mix of productivity and technology and structural transformation will take place. There has to be the desire and the ability. Without the appropriate skills development, we will feel the brain drain and then play the blame game. We need to embrace skills and technologies, learn from countries such as Rwanda and Singapore, measure the human development indicator and embrace the future! The world is stepping into the future in leaps and bounds, we need to get there! Dr Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry stated that the methodology of Productivity SA needs to become more common. That productivity leads to gain sharing. Skills, learning and a well organised workplace would raise our competitiveness. The way foreward entails much more interaction, respecting the human factor which will then raise productivity. We need to ensure sustainability in the workplace. We need to create an environment of competitiveness. Implementation of best practices and facilitation of an environment of sustainable enterprise – making profit and creating fulfilling jobs. From the panel discussions it is clear we need to move up the value chain. If the money sits with with the multi-nationals, we can not link up with the global network. Labour relationships need to improve to create a positive working environment in order to increase productivity and co operation. I was surprised to learn that on enterprise level, although we have one of the most advanced labour policies globally, it looks good on paper but it is not implemented.

As Motlatsi Gabaocwe, Executive Manager, VCC of Productivity SA stated, Plant level communication is vitally important between labour and management. This even

before getting to ownership. In cases where this is applied, the results are very good. There is an improvement in job satisfaction and labour disputes are reduced. Sherrie Donaldson, Executive Africa Innovator – “We need to upscale and increase value add per person. We need to keep learning new things, as it has been said that something you learn today is irrelevant in two years.

Sedick Jappie, Director of Superior Cabinet Doors – “The entrepreneur and leader must be visible. Management needs to take an interest in employees, that a tone of engaged leadership is set with keynote speakers. A two sided communication where the humane side. Once I heard two testimonials, I myself am convinced that taking this initiative country wide would upgrade our skills levels and propel us toward a link up with the global network. As lunch was served I left feeling even better that each and every employee on Trax’s manufacturing floor shared the same lunch with us, a morning well spent.