South Africa has formally initiated a R75-million, three-year collaborative research project aimed at materially improving labour-market intelligence, as well as the visibility of the country’s current and future skills needs.
The initiative has been commissioned by the Department of Higher Education and is being funded through the National Skills Fund. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) is leading the research in collaboration with the Education Policy Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.
Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande says the aim is to develop a reliable information system that sheds light on the country’s skills needs, as well as labour market supply and demand patterns – information that will be used to inform human-resource development planning in the public and private sectors.
“For too long, the tools that we have used to prioritise skills in this country have been based on a limited understanding and analysis of the character, structure and shifts in the economy and the labour market,” Nzimande argues.
He, therefore, wants the new Labour Market Intelligence System (LMIS) to offer analysis that is more responsive to contemporary needs and trends, while offering insight into the changes that are likely to emerge over a 10 to 15 year horizon.
Such analysis and intelligence would facilitate alignment of South Africa’s education and training system with the economic priorities outlined in the New Growth Path and the National Development Plan 2030.
The LMIS outcomes, which are likely to be published in phases over the three-year period, will also help government in crafting incentives to support “optimal skills absorption” and job creation.
“Skilling our labour force will play a role in fighting unemployment, both directly by providing skills to a skills-hungry economy, but also indirectly by providing a stimulus to economic growth and development of new and existing industries and economic sectors,” Nzimande argues.
HSRC CEO Dr Olive Shisana describes the partnership as the largest investment in skills-related research globally, demonstrating government’s commitment to evidence-based policymaking.
The project has been broken into six research themes:
- Establishing a foundation for labour-market information systems.
- Forecasting the supply of and demand for skills.
- Studying the skills needs of selected priority sectors.
- Reconfiguring the post-school sector to align the education and training systems with economic trends.
- An assessment of a young person’s potential pathways through the educational and training system into the workplace.
- Understanding the changing artisanal occupational context.
Shisana argues that a more accurate labour-market analysis will help government, as well as individuals, make better-informed and more appropriate educational plans and investments.