more than tripled to reach R2-billion,” he noted. By default, this has almost doubled the number of students at further education and training (FET) colleges.
Mending the Skills Gaps
Investment into infrastructure for tertiary institutions around the country continues with two new universities under construction in addition to the twelve new FET colleges in the pipeline. This is evidence of real commitment to education and training from the South African government as it endeavours to bridge the shortage of skills in the country. While the country is in need of toolmakers, welders, electricians, and electrical engineers amongst others, recent statistics show that the motor industry needs at least 10 000 qualified motor mechanics. With an infrastructure spend running into trillions of Rands being invested by the government, these and other skills are a necessity for South Africa’s growing economy. South Africa has a unique challenge in that it seemingly has a mismatch of skills across its economic landscape. On the one hand there are a high number of unemployed young people with no skills due to a lack of training. On the other, there are a high number of unemployed graduates who also seek employment. Another twist to the story is that, often employers say that universities and colleges are producing graduates with irrelevant skills.
The onus, then, is on all South Africans to work with the Department and the National Skills Authority to change the provision of further education and training landscape. ”Of course, we want to expand post school and tertiary education and training,” the minister observed. “The South African norm has been that the only way to secure employment after high school is by going to a university. That is a perception that we are striving to change and the message is slowly starting to filter through to the young people”.
The Department believes that by bringing colleges closer to employers and enabling business to participate in the curriculum and syllabus formulation of courses taught at the post school institutions, there will be no room for second guessing each other. In this regard, all parties have to work together and contribute to the creation of employable learners. Occupational Teams are a new initiative by the Department and the National Skills Authority where all role players in the skills (development) pipeline pool forces to examine what stumbling blocks exist in, for instance, producing more electricians, engineers and other skilled artisans. It is the Occupational Team’s mandate to then come up with ways and means on how the blockages can be effectively dealt with. “Through Occupational Teams we will further bring theory and practice across sectors from the construction industry to manufacturing and encompass the professional associations of engineers.” It is hoped that, in this manner, more artisans will be produced.
By placing emphasis on artisan skills development, the government has by no means deemphasised the importance of professionals. Over the years, student enrolment at universities has increased to just under a million, and is expected to reach six figures in 2014. Dr Nzimande highlights that his vision is for a South Africa where no South African will be without skills. “It is not going to be a quick route but we believe that a very firm foundation has been laid and we are taking a direction which will see a changed South Africa in 15-20 years”.
The National Skills Development Strategy lll
In January 2011, the Department of Higher Education and Training launched the third phase of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDSIII). To this effect, the Department is working in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Wits Policy Planning Unit to bring about integrated skills planning for the whole country. The Labour Market Intelligence Partnership (LMIP) seeks to generate evidence to support the state in skills planning to meet the needs of society and the economy - that is, identify supply and demand data, provide information, create knowledge and to build capacity. Its objectives, according to Mvuyisi Macikama, the Chief Director of the National Skills Fund (NSF) who spoke on behalf of Gwebinkundla Qonde, the Director General of the Department of Higher Education and Training, are to identify and generate new datasets needed for a credible Labour Management Information System (LMIS) which will be used to develop models and approaches to analyse skills demand. The NSDSIII also analyses institutional conditions and capabilities, curricula and occupational structures in order to inform processes to improve the quantity and quality of graduates from post-school institutions.
South Africa has a shortage of skills in many areas, said Edward Majadibodu, the Chairperson of the National Skills Authority. He noted that the National Skills Conference came at an opportune time when the government has invested multi trillions’ worth of infrastructure investment for the near future and the country needs skills to build roads, to weld, and to make electric connections for South Africa’s growing cities. In order that South Africa achieves its skills goals and outcomes, Majadibodu expressed the need to up-skill the current crop of tutors and lecturers in South Africa’s tertiary and training institutions. Up skilling has to be all encompassing as, according to Majadibodu, it will also involve the upgrading of infrastructure and resources and “one of the key resources is the human resources element which means that lecturers should be appropriately trained to tutor learners.”
The National Skills Authority declared that presently the collaboration among all stakeholders in South Africa needs some working on. “Going away from the National Skills Conference 2013, we would like to see more from parties involved and resulting in the formation of solid, tangible and durable partnerships. Innovative ideas are needed in order for us to move forward in the development of skills,” Majadibodu stressed. Stakeholders in the skills space are currently working in isolation with each, particularly universities, seemingly to think that skills development issues are more for people who are practically orientated. This is not an ideal scenario for a developing country with a booming economy where everyone should be working towards the same goal.
Moving into the Future
If South Africa is to achieve all its desired skills objectives and outcomes, Dr Nzimande emphasised that the country can ill afford to renege on high standards. “Going into the immediate future, while we have so many things to accomplish, the priority is to continue to improve the quality and offerings in our tertiary institutions. We will focus on producing properly trained lecturers who have the appropriate equipment and working with proper infrastructure,” noted Dr Nzimande. The Minister also revealed that over the next five years, at least R5-billion will be injected towards the upgrading of the equipment, improvement of infrastructure, improving lecturers’ skills and the construction of 12 new college campuses nationwide. He also noted that the Department, with the new developments, is considering the re-introduction of apprenticeships in order to increase opportunities in the crucial first 12 months of experience.
Majadibodu urged businesses to make use of the pivotal grants as outlined in the NSDSIII. The pivotal grants allow for the promotion of vocational and technical skills training. “The grant exists for people to move away from just focusing on skills programmes alone. The core aim of the grant for stakeholders to focus on the real scarce skills: professional, technical, vocational skills and areas of workplace learning,” said Majadibodu. He elaborated that through these grants, theory and practice will be in tandem with each other. “This will allow for the easy absorption of learners, with thorough theory and some practice, into the workplace. We believe that this is where the success of turning every workplace into a training space lies.”
The public sector forms part of the core of turning every workplace into a training space. According to Macikama, “increasing public sector capacity for improved service delivery and supporting the building of a developmental state” is vital. There are several interventions in this regard with one being the Department determining that the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) must identify Government departments in their respective sectors; thereafter they must evaluate and report on the relationship and engagement between the SETA and respective line departments. “The Department will analyse the current roles, commitments and engagement of governments and their SETAs, and thereupon develop a consolidated map of the SETA and government department engagements scenario,” Macikama shared.
The Skills Branch, together with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and the Human Resources Development Secretariat, Macikama further revealed, are currently developing a profile of all structures engaged in public sector human resources development planning and implementation, and a public service human resources development planning paper. To ensure that the SETA Sector Skills Plans (SSPs) meet the capacity needs of relevant departments and entities, the SETAs will conduct research into public service skills development needs in their respective sectors and set out, in their respective SSPs, the identified skills needs and priority programmes to address those needs. The interventions outlined above are by no means an exhaustive list in the quest to change the skills landscape and the post school sphere in South Africa but it is a tough challenge that both the Department and the National Skills Authority are committed to tackling. With ‘all hands on deck’, South Africa will see a dramatic evolution in the skills development landscape and a realisation of the vision to turn every workplace into a training space.
Skills for Resilience and Prosperity
Education and training is one of the five key priorities of government.
A skilled and capable workforce is critical for decent work; an inclusive economy; labour absorption; rural development; the reduction of inequalities and the need for a more diversified and knowledge intensive economy.
The cabinet has adopted A Skilled and Capable Workforce to Support an Inclusive Growth Path as a priority outcome for this government.
The Department is working in partnership with the HSRC and Wits Policy Planning Unit to bring about integrated skills planning for the whole country.
The government will increase access to occupationally-directed programmes by committing to produce 10 000 artisans in critical areas, annually.
The DHET is also in the process of developing a strategy, targeted at industry, to advocate for and promote awareness of the National Certificate (Vocational) as one of the ways through which to facilitate NC (V) graduates’ access to work-integrated learning and employment opportunities.
The Minister approved and published the Cooperation Framework for the Provision of Career Development Services in South Africa which aims to, among other things, serve as the basis and starting point for the development and implementation of a National Career Development Policy for the country and identify processes that stimulate regular review systemic planning of career services.
Turning Workplaces into Training Spaces
The South African skills landscape has undergone significant transformation since the dawn of democracy in 1994. As the nation gears itself to celebrate 20 years of democracy, it boasts two departments that are a result of the multi-pronged approach President Zuma put in place to address the skills development challenges South Africa faces.
Speaking at the bi-annual National Skills Conference held at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, Johannesburg in October 2013, Dr Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education and Training emphasised how the South African government post 1994 has made education an apex priority which has transformed the skills environment altogether across all critical areas. “For example, access to tertiary education and training for children from less privileged homes has increased tremendously. Only about R318-million worth of bursaries were disbursed in 2009. However in 2013, the amount has
by Andrew Ngozo