Legal Wise, a law institute in South Africa, defines retrenchment quite aptly, “Retrenchment is a form of dismissal due to no fault of the employee, it is a process whereby the employer reviews its business needs in order to increase profits or limit losses, which leads to reducing its employees.”
In some instances, automation has meant that some jobs no longer require human intervention. For example, in the banking sector, many physical branches have closed down or downsized as Internet banking takes over.
In the engineering world, mining companies have also been badly hit. For example, in September 2019, mining conglomerate Sibanye-Stillwater indicated that 5,270 jobs (or roughly 6% of their workforce) would have to be cut after financial losses at their mines. In 2017, Platinum producer Lonmin announced that it would lay off 12,600 workers over three years.
However, while some jobs are no longer as in-demand as they once were, advances in technology mean new roles are being created all the time. Here are some tips for surviving retrenchment.
Tweak your CV and get back to job hunting
Updating your curriculum vitae to be in line with modern recruitment practices is essential. Our Dean of Engineering at EIT, Steve Mackay, has a few tips on where to begin with your CV.
“First of all, ensure your CV is designed for the particular job you are applying for,” he said.
“Your CV should use plain English and the information should be laid out simply and logically…and leave lots of white space. Grammar and spelling must be one hundred percent accurate.
“Avoid too much detail; the CV that is 20 pages long is not acceptable. An executive summary at the top of the resume is a good idea. Be specific! Focus on the job you really want. Your CV should also include business strengths and business wins.”
You can also utilize your network here. Check up on previous employers, see if they have any vacant positions you could fill. Talk to colleagues and friends you have amassed along the way in your career. Your next job could be a phone call away.
Upskilling for the future of work
Growing your skillset is imperative. Many industries are automating more and more of their operations, which may leave the role you are performing redundant. Therefore, undertaking professional development in cutting edge areas of the engineering industry is essential.
The Engineering Institute of Technology provides professional certificates of competency, diplomas, advanced diplomas, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in crucial engineering disciplines with updated curriculums that prepare you for the technologies you can expect to see in the workplaces of the future.
Market your skills as a freelancer or an independent contractor to get work after you have been retrenched from a company. Depending on where you are in your career, you could continue doing that for a reasonable amount of time. In fact, some engineers are noticing that they can also create several side-hustles that generate money they can use to achieve even bigger things later on in life.
Retrenchment doesn’t have to be the end of the world for you. It can be the beginning of a new chapter in the book of your career. Keeping a level head and carrying on with making the most of the skills you have amassed, or looking into educating yourself further, are all important mechanisms to surviving any tough patch.
Retrenchment Tracker: South Africa's Big Corporate Job Losses in 2019 - so Far, www.businessinsider.co.za/total-number-of-job-losses-south-africa-retrenchment-corporate-job-losses-2019-6.
“Retrenchment Process and Procedure: QuickLaw Guide.” LegalWise, www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/retrenchment.