The Monyetla (which means ‘opportunities’) Work Readiness Programme is a visionary programme of the kind South Africa needs in every sector. Employer-led and government-funded, the initiative seeks to augment the entry-level labour force for the business process outsourcing industry. Monyetla was launched in 2008 by the Business Trust, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) and Business Process Enterprise South Africa (BPeSA).

Government provides around R20,400 per unemployed person trained by a consortium, and the consortium, in turn, is led by employers. The scheme has already trained 4,500 learners, which a further 3000 targeted for the third, year-long phase ending in April 2013. The Monyetla scheme is one of the more successful SETA (Sectoral Education and Training Authority) programmes in the country, and falls under the Services SETA, to which every employer in the broad services sector (of which Business Process Outsourcing forms a part) must contribute a 1% skills levy.

Part of its success can be ascribed to its clarity of purpose. To become a certified employer of choice on the project there are two criteria: Take on a minimum of 60 learners; and offer employment to 70% of them upon their successful completion of the programme. For every six learners employed, one team leader must be trained. The programme involves a 16-week course consisting of an initial theoretical and practical training component which involves 160 hours of call centre experience.

It is followed by six months or longer of employment. On completion of the course, trainees receive 60 credits towards the Level 2 Contact Centre Support Qualification. Monyetla is made up of a four-party consortium consisting of trainees, recruiters, training providers and employers. The National Skills Fund reimburses each consortium, which then divides the funds amongst its members (with a stipend also set aside for each trainee).

For team leaders who succeed in employment, some further funds are available for further study to NQF Level 2 accredition; this effectively amounts to a substantive upskilling of entry-level management at no cost to employers. The Monyetla scheme, which Johannesburg-based Paladin Consulting will be formally evaluating in a forthcoming report, can be measured in the meanwhile by its reach and the size of its uptake: 40 consortia spread across 6 provinces and 21 suburbs, and engaging in a wide range of activities including marketing, sales, customer service, back office administration, and debt collections.

For now, the BPO industry can point to a successful sectoral training programme with some confidence when making the case for further overseas investment. Robust and popular SETA programmes have tended to be an exception in South Africa; most are too ambitious, too broad in focus or not rigorous enough to have a tangible impact on their respective sectors, but Monyetla, which benefits from its positioning within a still-nascent industry, has proven itself three times over. The BPO industry and international investors surely await the eventual evalution of Monyetla with anticipation, but in the interim, the improved supply of BPO entry-level workers is very much a reality.

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