Louis Pulzone, founder and group CEO of LFP Training, on empowering the youth through skills education and ensuring job opportunities in the workplace of the future


Q: Why is it important that the youth have an entrepreneurial spirit and what is the best way to encourage them to develop an idea?
A: In general, entrepreneurs possess skills that everyone in SA should aspire to. They are often guided into their niche by having identified a problem or gap, and creating a service or product as a solution. They sacrifice short-term gain to deliver long-term solutions and in so doing they make themselves accountable.

The youth are generally tenacious in this regard. They are focused on new technology and how to best use it to their advantage. Millennials are also known to be impatient, and as such need to be mentored and encouraged to persist.

There’s been a lot of rhetoric around the critical need for skills as we head into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and it is the youth of today who will be delivering it. However, they need to be encouraged to gain skills outside of their passion so that they have a comprehensive understanding of their chosen marketplace.

Q: What skills are LFP Training highlighting to fulfil gaps in the marketplace?
A: It’s not all about skills training. It’s also about mentorship, guidance and counselling. Our trainers and facilitators are equipped to deal with the emotional roller coaster a lot of learners experience. Coming largely from poverty-stricken backgrounds, and having an opportunity to be developed further requires extreme confidence, accountability and a strong sense of self. By collaborating with the learners on a one-on-one basis, we are able to help them overcome these external and often personal barriers.

We also offer New Venture Creation (NVC) qualifications, which aid small businesses by providing them with the skills needed to succeed through structured learnerships.

The NVC Level 2 qualification is a programme for individuals who intend to start a business or who already have a venture that they want to grow and sustain. The NVC Level 4 qualification assists learners in acquiring the right tools to establish and grow an SME, and equips them to deal with behavioural, economic and administrative barriers.

Q: Enterprise and supplier development (ESD) and skills development are key to ensuring a sustainable business. How should the youth be ‘future-proofed’?
A: ESD is a combination of preferential procurement, supplier diversity and development, and enterprise development programmes used to service the needs of a business. Both ESD and skills development initiatives cover large portions of the scorecard, so it’s vital to score well overall.

ESD is one of the priority elements of BEE, and failing to comply with the sub-minimum requirements will result in a company being discounted a level. In a country where entrepreneurship is recognised as a catalyst for growth, ESD helps a small business thrive by gaining access to opportunities through its attractive BEE status.

ESD contributions can take on many forms. It isn’t based on the value of a contract given to a black business but rather the contributions towards technical help, the transfer of knowledge and skills, operating cash flow, loans and/or investments. This is where the future-proofing comes in, as we can actually aid these businesses through other means of support too.

Q: What are SA’s skills development challenges, and how do those align with transformation as a whole?
A: People need to be equipped – particularly the youth – with the education, skills and practical experience needed to excel in the current and changing workplace. Traditionally, gaining hands-on experience has proven to be a struggle for those seeking employment.

Another challenge we face is the large number of unemployed disabled individuals. We believe they are key in helping alleviate the unemployment crisis. They are also up for the challenge of being incorporated into the workforce and society as a whole. LFP has also determined an overall need for further upskilling, coaching and mentoring, both for the employed and unemployed.


Q: Which sectors are most impacted by skills shortages, and what are the implications thereof?
A: Overall, most sectors don’t have the necessary skills to ensure optimum performance. The areas of science, technology, engineering and maths in particular are highlighted. We also have to consider that as technology leads us into 4IR, finance and medical environments will be playing a massive role in creating jobs and advancing our economy. New technologies are likely to create new roles or require elevated learning platforms to advance employee skills.

With the private sector largely carrying the burden of poor or lower than the norm educational standards, it falls to such businesses to ensure they not only comply with the BEE Codes of Good Practice but also provide more opportunities to develop and grow individuals.

Q: What are the benefits of aligning BEE with skills training?
A: The benefits are twofold – the learners are enabled within a stimulated and controlled environment with skills and the acquisition of hands-on experience; and companies are able to implement skills development training while earning maximum BEE points, all at a fraction of the cost.

For example, our clients are eligible for the tax rebate incentive referred to in section 12H of the Income Tax Act, which is R80 000 per able-bodied learner and R120 000 per disabled learner. Tax rebates, youth subsidies and other government grants can also be accessed.

In addition, clients are able to claim the salary of any LFP Training-enrolled employee for the full duration of the learnership without compromising their business’ operational requirements. They can also claim 500% of the actual spend of their skills development target.

Q: In this space, What innovations and initiatives are being motivated and endorsed by LFP Training?
A: We have developed two industry firsts that have helped our clients achieve great competitive advantages.

The first is our off-site simulator model. This solution is specifically targeted to subsectors of the skills development element, which forms part of the BEE codes. Essentially we focus on the economically active population targets of our clients’ requirements and recruit in accordance with those, such as disabled learners and unemployed learners.

The simulator can be adapted to any industry and allows us to optimise client spend by accessing relevant government rebates and tailoring learnerships to suit needs and objectives, and all this while simultaneously adhering to the BEE codes.

The second initiative is the LFP Campus – an online learnership platform that makes it possible for our clients to gain substantial points towards their skills development spend – again, in line with the BEE Codes of Good Practice. This has proven most popular because it avoids downtime and loss of productivity, and provides learners freedom given that studies can be undertaken outside of working hours.


Q: How many individuals has LFP trained, across which sectors and for how many clients? And what financial support has been provided?
A: We have trained more than 7 000 learners with the input of at least 700 clients. Through our client partnerships, we have be able to provide R120 million in direct learner stipends across all industries. This has culminated in a 100% pass rate for our clients in their BEE verification audits.

Our current curriculum includes a general education and training certificate in business practice and courses in business administrative services; generic project management; business administration services; generic management; contact centre; NVC; wholesale and retail operations; banking; and IT end user.

Q: What is LFP Training’s strategic model for ensuring turnkey training solutions?
A: We offer everything that a client requires in terms of their skills development needs – from the administrative side (the recruitment of learners in line with client requirements and compliance paperwork) to implementing the learnerships on our premises in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

Apart from our services provided by the training academy and campus, we also undertake recruitment by focusing on internal and external talent development initiatives that are aligned with SA’s national skills development agenda.

Our consulting service addresses the challenges of the BEE codes, and the enterprise and supplier development service aims to provide contributions to assist in the operations, financials and development towards black business sustainability.

By Kerry Dimmer
Image: Haleema Rawoot