Four years after its 2013 conference, the National Skills Authority is still implementing recommendations aimed at improving the mandate it is tasked with, enhancing national skills development, including the systemic study of the implementation of the third National Skills Development Strategy, known to stakeholders as NSDS III.
Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande has extended the timelines for implementing this strategy, which aims to increase access to education and training opportunities, to March 2020, as the first set of implementation goals have not yet been reached.
“[We] must close ranks on issues that are hampering the skills development in the country. For this year, the theme of development of an integrated and differentiated post-school education and training system is befitting the occasion, given the context of policy discussions in the entire education system.
“The department is engulfed by a variety of education and training needs that cannot be resolved by the universities, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges or community education and training colleges alone, but [that, rather,] require urgent collaboration from industry and government,” said Department of Higher Education and Training director-general Gwebinkundla Qonde on Thursday.
Meanwhile, he noted that a recent community survey by Statistics South Africa, conducted in 2016, highlighted that much progress had been made in the past two decades.
“The number of people who indicated that they had no schooling has declined from 3.7-million in 1996 to 2.3-million in 2016,” he said, adding that the number of people who had completed a Bachelors degree had increased during the same period from 410 686 to 1.2-million.
Qonde further highlighted that people who have completed secondary education have “more than tripled”, from 3.5-million to 11.9-million.
“The social profile of our youth from 2009 to 2014, has shown that, since 2009, youth with less than matric were most likely to be unemployed, with the share of unemployed remaining unchanged at 57% over the last five years.
“I hope this conference will broaden the debate on access to university education, to cover aspects of TVET. We must preserve what we have, improve them [universities] and not destroy them,” said Qonde.
He added that the department had identified critical focus areas for the next five years, including substantially expanding education access to the youth, whether they had completed school or not.