Leaps and bounds in technology during the Fourth Industrial Revolution need not result in job redundancy. Instead, accelerated development of eLearning can set businesses up to succeed in an era of rapidly changing needs and challenges. Yes, even in the fuel retail sector.
“The picture today is one of economic challenges coupled with declining volumes and eroding margins.” This statement by the FRA Chairperson Mr Reggie Sibiya is truer now than it was in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 looting, and the 2022 floods in KwaZulu-Natal have added more challenges to the fuel retail sector which was already struggling. These obstacles can be overcome if the industry can adapt and keep pace with the evolving environment around it.
One direction to look is toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Technology may facilitate the stability of the industry, especially human resource management for fuel stations and beyond. When job redundancy affects fuel retail, how will the industry maintain employment? Online learning may be the answer.
The use of technology may seem obvious, but many businesses have not begun to tap into its potential. A 2021 study across the South African retail industry commissioned by the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority (W&RSETA) reported that more than 40% of retail businesses have not explored 4IR technologies. The report attributes the low-uptake to “resource constraints, lack of corporate interest, or lack of exposure to the benefits of 4IR technologies.” These factors shouldn’t hold fuel retail back from embracing the future.
A fuel station provides many entry-level jobs for unskilled labour, including cashiers, forecourt attendants and housekeeping staff. One might think that positions like these are easy to hire for because there is an abundance of unemployed people in South Africa. However, these jobs cannot be filled with people off the street: all the positions in a fuel station require training.
For a business to minimise risks, training is essential. Well-trained staff deliver a high standard of service and avoid costly beginner mistakes. Additionally, trained employees are able to take initiative in the workplace rather than needing the close eye of management at every moment.
According to the report from Wholesale & Retail SETA, one of the emerging skills identified in the sector includes Service Orientation. A successful employee at a fuel station needs to use these key skills:
With training in these skills, rather than suffering job redundancy at the hands of technological advances, the staff at a fuel station remain employable and essential for customer service.
Fuel stations in outlying areas may have an especially challenging time hiring trained staff or training new staff. The 4th Industrial Revolution has accelerated access to a variety of online learning opportunities, which could be the solution to this quandary.
Unfortunately, as with other 4IR advancements, uptake is limited. In the Wholesale & Retail SETA survey, a training provider had this to say: “eLearning policy rigidity is a limitation. There needs to be more support that is extended to eLearning. The institutional rigidity around face-to-face and paper provenance is still a hindrance from embracing online.” In other words, attitude and policy are the factors standing in the way of online learning for retail business training in South Africa.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world that keeping up with 4IR is an essential factor in a business’s survival. Adaptation to overcome obstacles will lead to a sustainable business.
PetroCONNECT has embraced a one of its kind online platform where learners can log in and be trained on various courses with SETA accreditation up to NQF level 3. Skills development programmes provide employees with bridging programmes to obtain a full qualification.
Skills programmes are designed to enhance the abilities of:
PetroCONNECT has the experience and infrastructure to manage the training for your staff, or be upskilled yourself, enabling you to enter the fuel retail industry with confidence. Our Skills Development Programme assists fuel retailers with overcoming the challenges of South Africa and the global economy. Explore the range of skills we are accredited to grow on our skills development page.