Press Releases & Interviews

Edcon launches comprehensive corporate university and is awarded over 1000 learnerships

02 October 2007

Edcon today formally launched one of South Africa's most comprehensive corporate universities - the Edcon Retail Academy at the launch the company also announced that the Wholesale and Retail SETA had awarded Edcon over 1000 learnerships. Edcon will guarantee employment for all learners.
In 1999, less than 1% of Edcon's payroll was spent on training. To underpin and sustain a successful turnaround, the company injected considerable resources in its people and now invests more than 3.4% on skills and leadership development. Employees receive on average one week's training per year.

That same year, the company's share price was at an all time low of R1.60 and had an ROE of 5.4%. By making Edcon a compelling place to work and to shop the company turned around and became a compelling place to invest - the company was sold to Bain Capital for R46 a share.

"We knew that continuous, life-long learning for current and new employees would be crucial to our success as well as our transformation," said Dr Urin Ferndale, CE for Retail Operations and former Group HR Director.

"By aligning training to our business strategy we would have the right skills in place to support current and future business requirements as well as enhancing our employees' personal development." The Retail Academy, he said, forms part of a more complete training and development package which also includes tertiary bursaries.

Edcon bought the old Technikon SA building in Crown Mines in 2003 to set up the retail academy for new recruits, middle management and senior executives to elevate the standard of their training.

In partnership with Stirling University in Scotland, which has offered a renowned retail tertiary degree for over 20 years, Edcon has also developed a unique curriculum which includes an internationally-recognised MBA in retail management for senior managers. To date 18 people have received this higher degree, another 15 are currently studying for the higher degree. 

More than 1000 people have been trained. All are graduates; all are black and all have been deployed as assistant buyers or planners, store managers running small stores, or assistant managers at the larger-format stores.  "The Academy was therefore instrumental in ensuring that transformation at the core of our business (merchandising and operations)," Ferndale said.

"Students receive both practical and theoretical lectures and tutorials from retired and current retailers as well as Stirling's top four lecturers who teach seminars each quarter," he explained.

The tools employed are classroom-based learning, group and individual assignments, on-the-job learning and coaching. Technology enhances the learning process. 

Currently the faculty teaches Merchant Development, aimed at Buyers and Planners and Operations Management Development, developing effective and efficient operations managers for each chain - Edgars, Jet and CNA.

HR, Financial Services and Logistics curricula are being rolled out.                                        

The academy also offers a ‘virtual' corporate university, broadcast over radio and video to outlying stores.

Ferndale said the company's vision was to benefit employees at Edcon and beyond, throughout their working lives with a bottom-up and top-down approach. The bottom-up approach is aimed at creating a critical mass of black people with skills thereby transforming the industry.

From the top-down Edcon introduces highly qualified people with no retail experience to the concept of shadowing company directors before being deployed into positions of responsibility.

At the launch, Mr Joel Dikgole, the CEO of the W&RSETA announced that Edcon would be awarded 1050 learnerships in four categories:                                        

  • 200 unemployed learners on the National Certificate: Retail Shop Floor Practices                                                
  • 200 unemployed learners on the National Certificate: Contact Centre Support                                                    
  • 200 employed learners on the National Certificate: W&R Sales and Practice                                                        
  • 250 employed learners and unemployed graduates on the National Certificate: W&R Operations Supervisors

All learners will be eligible for full-time employment.                                        

Ferndale said the implementation of the learnership programme would further strengthen Edcon's adherence to Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment strategy of the country.

"We were extremely pleased to have the W&RSETA recognise Edcon's past contribution to implementing learnerships and acknowledgement of the organisation's capacity to manage these."

CEO Steve Ross commented that Dr Ferndale's efforts were instrumental in Edcon's transformation strategy: "Seven years ago, senior black managers at Edcon numbered 30%; today 67% of our senior managers are black. Focused and measurable human resources development is indispensible to Edcon's way of doing business."   

Skills training, leadership coaching and enrolling more and more of their employees in the retail academy modules will see Edcon continue to be a leader in transformation and ‘changing the face of retail'.

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