Inability to retain skills is SANDF’s top challenge – CHR

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The inability to retain scarce skills is the biggest challenge facing the South African National Defence Force, according to Chief of Human Resources Lieutenant General Michael Nkabinde. For this reason the organisation is pushing to recruit and train the youth.

“I want to reiterate that of the challenges that we continue to be confronted with, topping the list is our organisation’s ability to retain scarce skills,” Nkabinde said. He made the comments during a media breakfast in Pretoria today, his first after being appointed Chief of Human Resources (CHR).

Nkabinde said that one of the weak points is that industry, which is better paid, is taking jobs away from the SANDF. “We cannot really as a government department compete with industry in terms of salaries.” As a result, he said, the SANDF needs to look into morale and conditions of service to retain personnel.

Some of these efforts include amendments to the Non-Statutory Force Pension Fund and the establishment of a Military Ombudsman to complement the existing grievance mechanism, implemented in July 2010. In addition, a permanent National defence Service Commission will by fully operational by the first quarter of the new financial year.

However, some of the biggest steps forward have been in recruitment and training. “The SANDF is on a campaign to inform the public about career opportunities that we offer,” Nkabinde said. “We are indeed in need of highly qualified, scarce skills practitioners. In a bid to address this challenge, HR recruitment drive will focus on attracting high school and university students with maths and science to join the MSDS programme,” Nkabinde said. “We must strive to recruit the best from the communities.”

The Military Skills Development System (MSDS) programme is a two-year voluntary service system with the long-term goal of enhancing the South African National Defence Force’s deployment capability. Recruits are required to sign up for a period of two years, during which they receive military training in their first year of service. During the second year of service they are deployed where needed and given the opportunity to apply their knowledge and develop their skills.
“The SANDF will be utilising all available platforms to push this campaign forward,” Nkabinde said. “One of these platforms will be participation in this year’s Rand Easter Show, where we will have stands for career exhibition and briefings.”
“On the issue of job creation, as HR division we are engaged in several projects related to job creation in an effort to cater for MSDS members exiting the system after two years of service. Employment opportunities have been secured with the Department of Home Affairs and Transnet, amongst others.
“MSDS members who exit SANDF are placed in permanent jobs by these departments and parastatals, in accordance with the concept of job creation. So far the Department of Home Affairs has appointed 350 military officials permanently at OR Tambo International airport, as a pilot project, and 178 reserve members have been appointed to assist with the documentation of the Zimbabwean Project, whereas Transnet has appointed SANDF members in the following sectors: Transnet Rail (178), Transnet Pipeline (10) and Transnet Artisan Training (53).
“Currently Transnet is recruiting security officials from our pool of MSDS members who exited the programme in December 2011. Further, Transnet will be recruiting 200 members every month for the next five years with the aim of distributing members to other national ports of entry.
“We’re in the process of finalising and approving a special package for MSDS members exiting the force,” Nkabinde stated. Currently they only receive R18 000 upon exit. “We’re looking at giving them a sizeable amount, making it possible for them to further their studies in their desired fields.”

Nkabinde said that defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu wants to upscale the MSDS programme and is talking about recruiting 10 000 members. “Funding will be made available,” he noted.

The CHR said that to date, 1 500 young people from the Department of Rural Development have successfully completed the National Youth Service (NYS) programme in two intakes, in Bloemfontein and Saldanha. At the moment there is a group of more than a thousand undergoing training at 3 SAI in Kimberly.
“Presently, an investigation is underway as directed by the Minister of Defence to further develop and improve the NYS Programme. All indications are that the final home of NYS will be HR Division.”

The NYS is a government initiative that offers opportunities for young people between the ages of 18 and 35 – especially the unemployed, unskilled and out of school – to contribute to the national development agenda through serving their communities and country.
“This year we need to be sure we use all possible platforms to recruit these young men and women into the defence force,” Nkabinde said.
“As the Human Resources division we are under no illusion of the work that is expected of us. We remain resolute in providing direction and policy guidance for the effective management of human resources in the DOD. I am very pleased with the work that has been done so far and appreciate my predecessors for paving the way to the transformation of this environment.”