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Industry failure to report skills requirements undermining economic growth

27th February 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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The Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (Ewseta) has said it cannot accurately determine critical skills needs in the sector because industry participants do not accurately report their skills demands.

In a media briefing, in Johannesburg, on February 27, Ewseta CEO Mpho Mookapele revealed that, of the 3 106 South African energy and water companies coded to the Ewseta in the 2022/23 financial year, only 1 028 paid their skills development levies as required under the Skills Development Act, while only 202 submitted their workplace skills plans (WSPs) and annual training reports (ATRs).

The submission of WSPs and ATRs is a core component of the skills development priority element on a company’s black economic empowerment (BEE) scorecard. However, Mookapele noted that companies should submit this information to help ensure the right skills are developed for the industry, rather than merely for BEE certification purposes.

“Many see the critical skills list and don't agree with it. Industry doesn't agree with it, but guess what? I get it from them,” Mookapele said.

She said the aim each year was to develop a credible mechanism for determining the most critical skills and hard-to-fill vacancies, but that a lack of meaningful participation from industry was undermining that process.

“Every year we ask: What are you struggling with? What are the critical skills that are required to drive strategy? And they tell me PowerPoint skills, software development, presentation skills, or project management. Yet the sector is fighting for modellers, but you won't see financial modelling as a skill that's required,” Mookapele illustrated.

She noted that independent power producers were experiencing poaching challenges, with skilled personnel moving between different companies owing to high skills demand.

“But we will never see that on the information submitted to us. That information informs the critical skills list,” Mookapele said, saying that the industry was to blame for failing to submit the relevant information.

However, human resources service provider Grok Consulting operations director Thornton van Wyngaardt noted that many companies failed to submit their WSPs and ATRs because they did not have a certified skills development facilitator (SDF) to do it for them, as was required by law.

“There is a lack of knowledge throughout many different sectors, not just the energy and water sector, that SDFs are needed for these submissions,” he said.

In addition, the perception that many companies had was that the submission process was a heavy administrative burden, and therefore viewed it as a begrudging exercise in compliance. However, he noted that this perception was unfounded, as the submission was handled by the SDF.

“The fact is that companies that support their SDFs in fulfilling the submissions accurately not only benefit from being compliant, and the receival of BEE points and skills development funding, but they also benefit from the development of the right critical skills needed within their sector, thereby encouraging economic growth,” he told Engineering News.

He noted that SDF-supported WSP and ATR submissions helped to ensure the long-term sustainability of entire sectors because they provided sector education and training authorities (Setas) with accurate critical skills information.

“I have been in battles with employers who are demanding their BEE certificate because a deal depends on it, and we didn't approve it because they submitted late or not at all.

“This shows the prevailing attitudes to skills development, that company CEOs or executives will complain about the impact of non-approval, but they will not talk about the impact on the country of them not submitting their WSPs or ATRs,” Mookapele added.

She said this information, provided by companies through certified SDFs, was essential for determining where Setas should invest funds for training and skills development to ensure that they could assist companies to build capabilities.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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