Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Buti Manamela on Tuesday stressed the importance of social partnerships as a cornerstone of skills development.
In an opening speech at the Skills Development Summit, he noted that the event was being held against a background of low economic growth and high unemployment, as well as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the march towards automation and digitisation.
He said that, in light of this, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the South African government in general have committed to increasing access to employment through education and skills interventions to build the competencies needed for employment and self-employment, where technical vocational education and training colleges and community colleges play a critical role; and expanding public and private sector skills commitments for youth employment, including capacity building.
The Deputy Minister said commitments also included finding solutions to accelerate opportunities for “Neets” – young people who are not in education, employment or training – to earn an income; and assisting small businesses by leveraging procurement for small firms and cooperatives.
The DHET and government are also supporting large-scale youth entrepreneurship programmes and the informal sector.
Additionally, Manamela mentioned that 4IR would have a significant impact on the future skills that South Africa would require, as well as how the country prepares to meet that skills demand through retraining people for future jobs.
Haggai Education and Training director Susan van Aswegen noted that the World Economic Forum predicted that five-million jobs would be lost by 2050, owing to robotics and automation, and that South Africa should consider how it could ensure human capital was able to coexist with new technology.
Meanwhile, Manamela highlighted that the DHET had recently concluded an evaluation of the National Skills Development Strategy III (NSDS III), for the period between 2011 and 2016.
“The evaluation results helped us to shape and inform the NSDS IV and the National Skills Development Plan 2030 (NSDP).”
The evaluation found that the skills development levy resulted in income of about R63-billion over the period from 2011 to 2016.
Of the R63-billion received, about R50-billion went to sector education and training authorities (Setas), while about R12-billion went to the National Skills Fund (NSF).
In turn, the Setas spent R6.3-billion on administration costs, about R14.5-billion on mandatory grants and R20-billion on discretionary grants.
In total, Setas made R31-billion worth of discretionary commitments between 2011 and 2016, while disbursing only R20-billion of these commitments, pointing to substantial underspending of available funds, said Manamela.
During the period of NSDS III, there were almost 1.1-million enrolments across different learning programmes offered under the auspices of the 21 Setas.
Additionally, there were 330 000 learners funded by the NSF. “That means there were just over 1.4-million beneficiaries of skills development system funding between 2011/12 and 2015/16,” said the Deputy Minister.
In terms of employment, the proportion of learners not previously employed being absorbed into full-time employment after educational completion was high in the case of apprenticeships, learnerships and internships; however, unemployment continued to rise, Manamela pointed out.
“Employers believe skills development has improved productivity, reduced errors in the workplace and improved the quality of product or service delivered. Trade unions have agreed that this was the case. Training has also increased the work readiness of young people entering the workplace.”
However, Manamela said a majority of employers had stated that skills development had not been what they had hoped for in terms of improving the supply of needed skills.
Earlier this month, Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor promulgated the NSDP, which has been crafted in a policy context of the National Development Plan and the White Paper on Post School Education and Training.
The plan proposes a multitiered approach to understanding and responding to the skills needs of South Africa.
“Firstly, the NSDP addresses determining skills at organisational level, and understanding skills needs at the workplace, both in public and private sectors. Secondly, [the plan addresses] determining skills at sectoral level of occupations in high demand and priority occupations.
“Thirdly, determining skills, at national level, which includes provincial and local levels of occupations in high-demand and priority occupations,” Manamela explained.
Outcomes of NSDP include identifying and increasing the production of occupations that are in high demand, linking education and the workplace, improving the level of skills in the workforce, increasing access to occupationally directed programmes, supporting the growth of the public college system, providing support for entrepreneurship skills development, encouraging worker initiated training and supporting career development services.
Manamela pointed out that the NSDP also set out the institutional arrangements for Setas with a more pointed emphasis on good governance, sound management, better efficiency and greater impact.
“Social partners will continue to play an active role in Seta accounting authorities and in the National Skills Authority. Social partners remain at the heart of the NSDP.”