The Foschini Group, one of the country’s largest clothing retailers, has announced that it will start reducing Chinese imports, and increase investment at two of its clothing factories in the Western Cape, adding more floor space and employing an additional 530 workers this year, and 5 000 by 2025.

This is a silver lining in what has been a very gloomy outlook for South Africa’s manufacturing sector for some time. Political instability, state capture, mounting corruption, mismanagement, infrastructure constraints, the cost of doing business, and a lack of skills development have all been hampering this important part of the country’s economy. And just last month the chairperson of a leading electronics and original equipment manufacturer said that with the pandemic having exacerbated these challenges, he couldn’t see the local sector returning to pre-Covid levels for the next year and a half.

Skills development is one of the areas constricting manufacturers’ ability to achieve their full potential. While this has partly to do with limited funding, it’s also due to a general lack of key skills. This is an area in which eLearning can have a significant positive impact.

Going the eLearning route can result in:

Tech-savvy, multiskilled workers – An online learning management system (LMS) that can be customised to a company’s specific needs offers new courses quickly and with no hassle. It also allows trainees an opportunity to develop their digital skills, as well as soft skills like critical thinking, initiative and independence.

Limited production-flow off time – Interrupting work to allow staff to train can disrupt the daily flow of production and it carries a cost too. Some manufactures operate across several cities and sites, so often coordination and additional costs are needed to teach the training content through a facilitator; and then there’s the issue of maintaining quality of teaching and training from one site or city to another. Accessing an online learning platform (LMS), with relevant courseware loaded onto it, eliminates these challenges. Introductory training videos and simulations can be added to the courseware, designed to be more stimulating and easier to remember, and also to teach a greater variety of skills and tasks. And employees can access the online LMS from their phone (or laptop) in their own time and at their own pace, while still meeting course and timing objectives set by the employer.

Onboarding made easier – With an LMS, new employees can access courseware to familiarise themselves with the company’s processes, and to train them up, quickly and at any time. eLearning courseware, which includes elements such as animated microvideos, are engaging and therefore memorable, and often develop additional softer skills for new, less experienced staff.

Compliance training is smoother – Health and safety procedures, environmental laws and the general nature of regulations are changing all the time. Training staff to meet these strict requirements is an absolute necessity but often involves additional time off the production work flow and expense. An online LMS can help give an overall view of who among your employees may complete their compliance courseware and who hasn’t, reassigning courses for certifications to those employees whose certification has reached its expiration date. And don’t worry about compliance courseware being stale or boring – thanks to its versatility, digital content is visually engaging and therefore more memorable.