While some parties in South Africa believe that government’s target of 46 000 artisans by 2014/15 is an attainable goal, training company Artisan Training Institute (ATI) cofounder and director Sean Jones says this goal is “far beyond anyone’s grasp”.
“Some organisations are saying that we are in a better position to achieve this goal owing to the incorporation of the sector education and training authorities (Setas) into the Department of Higher Education and Train-ing (DHET).
“Setas continue to under- perform and the absorption of Setas into the DHET can be seen as nothing more than window dressing. We won’t come close to training an additional 46 000 artisans by the end of next year. If we do, you can be almost certain that the level of training they obtain will be questionable,” says Jones.
In contrast to Jones’s view, higher education provider Production Management Institute executive director for strategy John Botha says: “The artisan training space has moved away from a period of great uncertainty to one of certainty and clarity. This has, in turn, paved the way for the pace of delivery of qualified artisans into the South African economy to increase.”
Some key developments have been made since the incorporation of the Setas into the DHET last year, followed by an overhaul of the Seta landscape and then by key improvements to Seta constitutions and governance structures this year.
Further, there has been stronger collaboration between government, business and labour, as well as communities, arising mainly from the National Skills Accord (NSA), signed by govern- ment in July, and a multipronged strategy to make further education and training (FET) colleges function as high-quality institu- tions that produce critical middle- level skills and are integrated with the National Qualifications Framework and the general and higher education landscapes.
“Seta boards are far more capacitated – they are stronger, have independent chairpersons and better business, government and labour representation. For example, higher-level individuals with stronger business minds have replaced human resource personnel, which, in many instances, were representing business. Government representation is now at Ministerial and national level.”
Further, Jones says: “Although Seta boards are more capacitated, there are still fundamental structural issues that are going to impede the development of quality artisans. I don’t believe that the changes at board level will effectively improve what is needed on the ground to improve artisan training. I think our standards of artisan delivery are still very questionable. Ultimately, industries will seek quality training providers regardless of the meddling by the DHET.
“Our education system has been systematically tampered with over the last 20 years, culminating in our current ranking in the world competitiveness report of 146 out of 148 countries. The two countries in positions 147 and 148 are both in the middle of raging civil wars,” he adds.
“We have a serious crisis looming, as the majority of the youth in our country are unemployable. Our leaders need to start meaningful consultation with industry leaders at all levels if we are to make progress. Alternatively, there will be large-scale spending of critical resources that will not deliver the growth South Africa needs to achieve,” Jones concludes