‘We need to act!’ Professor Jonathan Jansen’s rallying cry strikes a chord for many people, especially at the beginning of the year when enthusiasm is high and New Years’ resolutions still fresh in the mind. But where do we start when it comes to developing the skills we need to take our business forward?
Prof. Jansen has some great ideas on how to bridge the gap for entrepreneurs who yearn to improve their skills and knowledge. Jansen, who serves as the rector of the University of the Free State, is also the author of inspirational books We Need to Act and How to Fix South Africa’s Schools. In his opinion, life-long learning should be a given for business owners. So, how do we do this?
“This is an important question,” said Jansen. “Everyone should be able to learn throughout the course of their life, regardless of where they find themselves in hierarchy. Whether you’re in kindergarten or you’re 50 years old and working for yourself, you should be able to continue learning.”
He highlighted that the the acquisition of new skills and the satisfaction of learning is an important contributor to developing confidence. “This is a vital issue of human development.” However, according to him, in spite of good intentions the State falls short in its responsibility to make life-long learning opportunities widely available.
“The Department of Higher Education and Training has not made enough ladders available, so we must talk about it. In some cases, funding and incubator programmes are available from the private sector enabling people to improve their skills. The trick is to find where those opportunities lie. Some universities have adult education centres, providing different levels of training opportunities. Sometimes it’s a Diploma, Certificate, or Degree that fits the bill, but sometimes, just recognition of attendance that indicates that this person took the time to learn project managment skills, for example,” he said.
Jansen is critical of the Small Enterprise Development Agency which was tasked with the responsibility of providing learning opportunities. With his inimitable candour, he says, “These do not have a great reputation, but small business owners must keep trying, regardless. Do not give up your desire for learning. Seek out the ladder of opportunity!”
Many small business owners, glancing at the glossy ads for MBA programmes at South African business schools, sense that deeper knowledge and better education would make a difference to the outcome of their enterprise. However, the obstacles to further education are substantial.
An MBA doesn’t come cheap. At the low end of the scale a distance learning programme from Mancosa costs in excess of R 64 000. On the high end is the hefty price tag just shy of R200k from GIBS. The need to continue generating income while studying makes this something of a pipe dream for most small business owners. So where does one start if you want to improve your skills, but cannot afford to do an MBA or similar course?
Various business skills can be learned through free open source learning opportunites on the internet. If you haven’t yet checked out the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) model, it’s worth investigating. You might also want to try a course in business writing, via Coursera, or learn about data analysis via edX.
You can wait until the State fulfills its mandate to provide lifelong learning… or you can act. Check out a library book on your topic of interest, and check the notice boards at your local community centre. Watch the media for incubator programmes offering a chance to revitalise your skills and up your game. Jansen concludes, “It’s falls on the individual’s shoulders, ultimately. Take the initiative to boost your skills. You can make a difference. We need to act!”
Additional resources for entrepreneurs looking to improve their skills include:
South African Institute for Entrepreneurship
Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship
Shanduka Black Umbrellas Incubators
SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme
The Innovation Hub
Softstart BTI Incubation Programme for Tech Startups
Rise Africa TechLab Africa
Riversands Incubation Hub
Bertha Centre for Social Innovation
GIBS Enterprise Development Academy
And for the youngsters, there’s Teen Entrepreneur who offer seminars, workshops, conference and exhibitions for schools, universities, church and community youth centres.
THREE PRIZES FOR CATALYST SUBSCRIBERS
- Win one of three copies of Jonathan Jansen’s Book We Need to Act by doing the following:
- Ensure you have subscribed to Catalyst
- Share on Facebook and Twitter using the share function in the article.
- The deadline for entries is 5 February 2016.
- Winners will be announced on Facebook and Twitter by 10 February 2015.
Text by Liesl Jobson
Image courtesy Books LIVE