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Picture: 123RF/stephen2324
Picture: 123RF/stephen2324

It will take at least another year for executive education revenues to return to pre-Covid levels, says Sharmla Chetty, global CEO of the US-based Duke Corporate Education group.

Some schools have flourished financially during the pandemic. For most, though, executive education income has shrunk as clients have either cancelled programmes or insisted on paying less when tuition moved online.

Chetty says that while overall demand is rising again, “I think it will be late next year or early 2024 before activity and revenue levels are back at 2019 levels.”

SA-born Chetty, who launched Duke’s Joburg SA subsidiary in 2007 and was appointed global CEO last year, says the disruption caused by Covid created an opportunity for business schools to rethink what and how they teach. “You sometimes have to throw away the old model and start again,” she says.

All schools were initially forced online, but now, with most pandemic restrictions lifted, they can decide what works best for them and their clients. Some will remain wholly online, but most will offer a blended mix of online and face-to-face education.

It’s ironic, says Chetty, that after two years of teaching companies and their employees how to live apart through remote working, business schools now have to teach them to become reacquainted as staff are recalled to the office.

Not everyone is happy at the prospect, but, overall, says Chetty, “people want to see people, they want human contact”. After viewing the world through the prism of their computer screen for two years, they also want to travel – locally and internationally. Interaction through Zoom and Teams may be cost-effective but it’s not good for the soul.

However, what people want most of all, she says, is sound business leadership to guide them through multiplying economic and political challenges that are replacing Covid. Worldwide, but particularly in SA, there is a loss of trust in leaders. Business leaders attract more confidence than political ones, but they have to work harder to earn the loyalty of employees.

“It’s about leadership that is brave and bold,” says Chetty. That means doing what is right not just for the bottom line but also for society and the environment. “People want leaders with moral courage and conviction.”

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