The upskilling and development of South Africa’s youth is critical to ensuring economic growth and a prosperous future for the next generation. Masslift Africa is making an impact on unemployment by providing employment opportunities, skills development, and mentorship to the forklift industry’s next generation of professionals and artisans. In doing so, the firm has fostered a high level of talent retention – as evidenced by the feedback received from their younger employees.
With the ever-increasing numbers in unemployment and the further shortage of trade specialists in South Africa, Masslift Africa has made investing in youth upskilling a key focus of its business strategy. “Without a doubt, companies like Masslift Africa need to invest in our youth and pave the way for the next generation of highly skilled specialists,” says Shaun Collins, Chief Operations Officer at Masslift.
“We look at ourselves as a ‘young’ business. I was 28 when I was appointed as Sales Director and 38 when I was appointed as CEO. Our CFO was 33 when she was appointed into the position. The average age of our employees is 37, and the youngest is 23. Our youngest manager is 29. This makes us the custodians of the future careers that these individuals will have, and we take it very seriously. Growth is a central pillar of the Masslift organisational culture,” says Masslift Chief Executive Officer, Marco Caverni.
This sentiment is shared by 24-year-old Marketing Coordinator, Palesa Matereke. “Often youth are faced with the challenge of finding an organisation that believes in potential and is willing to invest time and resources to grow that potential, however, Masslift provides that platform. Masslift uplifts me by presenting an opportunity for growth, learning, and becoming a better individual, both personally and professionally. In doing so, I am constantly uplifted by the organisation to become better, stand strong, gain knowledge, and succeed in carrying out the duties of my work title.”
Masslift has fostered a culture that attracts millennials and Gen Z’s and incorporates inclusion, diversity and technical innovation with a strong focus on skills development and opportunities for growth. “The youth of today want to see change and they want to be a part of something special. We are also flexible and always ready to implement change rather than stay stuck in the ‘old ways’ which is something the younger employees can be excited about. We recognise the fact that their tech savviness is an asset, and we encourage them to drive change and innovation. We have actually implemented a lot of innovative ideas that have been brought forward by young employees which have proven to be very effective,” Collins elaborates.
This approach has a tangible and lifelong effect on some of the young employees who have been supported to create a solid foundation on which to build their careers. “Masslift has offered and continues to offer me chances to learn and grow my skills. In my role as a Junior accountant, I am exposed to the processes that lead to the preparation of the financial statements of the company which means I am able to put into practice the theoretical knowledge I acquired in my studies. The support and upliftment have not ended there. I have chosen to continue my studies and the company, and the management team have supported me in this both financially and with flexible working hours,” says Simphiwe Makhathini, aged 24.
To drive and support the company’s skills development plan, Masslift opened their own dedicated training centre in 2018. Dubbed the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, this facility is used for all training mediums to support, upskill, and qualify employees at all skills and educational levels from novice apprentices through to advanced qualified technicians.
The Masslift apprenticeship program runs for a maximum of four years and includes practical and theoretical components offered in designated trades to achieve artisan status. The programme provides relevant workplace exposure to apprentices and affords them the opportunity to learn how to inspect, repair and maintain engines. The training is broken up into four phases and includes 80 practical weeks for on-the-job training and a two-day practical test allowing the apprentices to formally qualify. The minimum entry requirement is a Grade 10 or N1 with trade theory.
Alongside this artisanal training, finance, sales, administrative and customer service training opportunities and mentorship are also provided to ensure that development is offered in all areas of the business. “As employees navigate through our various training methods, we make certain that they are also kept up to date with latest technical developments so that they can be ahead of the game and always provide a high level of service excellence to our customers,” Collins explains.
Collins goes on to say that retaining qualified technical specialists is a challenge and that Masslift, like other companies, faces along with the risk of losing employees to local and even international competitors. “In support of employee retention, we believe that our culture has roots and once this in imbedded in you, you generally find it very hard to leave, no matter what the circumstances. In addition to this, we provide our employees with valued benefits that give security and peace of mind in both the short and long term. Apprentices who have qualified are automatically promoted to either a field or workshop service technician in the month following their graduation.”
Through mentorship, the management team also focuses on developing soft skills and nurturing young employees to help them mature in their roles. “I have gained a lot of emotional intelligence, especially after participating in the VUCA program that Masslift sponsored me for. I always struggled to be able to share my opinion or ideas in a crowd, but not anymore. I have become a very confident woman. I trust my opinions and Ideas,” explains 25-year-old Workshop Administrator, Munshya Phiri.
“Of course, we want to develop all our staff, but we recognise the importance of developing our youth. We believe in the youth of South Africa, and we want them to reach their full potential. This is why we have dedicated ourselves to ensuring that our staff can improve their abilities to allow them to dream. This youth month, I hope all companies take this to heart. I am big believer in the fact that there is no substitute for hard work and that dreams are only achievable through dedication, but it is up to us to provide the environment in which this dedication can bear fruit,” Caverni asserts. Regional Service Controller, Amber Sittert (24) concludes with an insightful take on what it is like to grow as a junior at Masslift: “When I started at Masslift I was only 21 years old, but I can proudly say today that I am surrounded by a team that doesn’t only encourage my work growth but my self-growth as well. Masslift provides us with different opportunities to express ourselves and the people that we are. What I enjoy most about my team is that we are all a bunch of unique individuals, but we complement each other nicely, and if it weren’t for my team and our inspiring managers, none of us would be able to grow in this work force, and it’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. Working for Masslift is so rewarding. We always feel that we are seen and heard, and they never leave growth unnoticed.”