HP sets empowerment precedent

3 September 2007

Hewlett Packard (HP) has become the first company in South Africa to make use of an equity-equivalent project as part of its contribution to black economic empowerment (BEE), announcing plans to set up a training institute for employees and graduates.

The equity-equivalent option offers mainly international companies operating in South Africa a means of contributing to local empowerment without having to sell shares.

The company will set up the HP Business Institute (HPBI), an enterprise and skills development programme aimed at fostering scarce and critical skills among graduates and employees in small businesses in the information communication technology (ICT) sector.

The announcement followed a meeting between President Thabo Mbeki and his advisory panel on ICT last month.

HP South Africa chief executive Thoko Mokgosi-Mwantembe said in a statement last week that the company was committed to transformation in South Africa, and had to date invested over R150-million in broad-based BEE initiatives.

“Through HPBI, the company will continue to contribute to our country’s economic growth by creating new jobs and opportunities for SMEs and ICT professionals, as well as addressing the skills shortages in critical areas,” she said.

According to HP, the programme is designed to train 1 800 students over the next six-and-a-half years, with skills being delivered to existing BEE-compliant small and medium enterprises, enabling those companies to break through into the more sustainable high-end of the ICT industry.

“The HPBI initiative is aligned with the Department of Communication’s national e-skills strategy, which aims to address the ICT skills requirements for the sector,” Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said.

The company will identify individuals who will be placed in short-term skills programmes and one-year learnerships, equipping them with the necessary ICT skills, thereby helping create employment and reducing the skills gap in the sector. The first intake of graduates at the institute is scheduled for February 2008.

Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa hailed the country’s first-ever equity-equivalent project, stating that it was “another significant milestone” in the country’s transformation process.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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