The African National Congress is starting its “dispute resolution process” in a bid to address the a.
SEVERE lack of skills has plagued SA's burgeoning economy. The apartheid government deliberately promoted investment in human capital along racial lines and used skills development as one of its main tools for political control and selective socio-economic development.
One of the main challenges for the democratic government has been to rid the country of this pernicious legacy. For as long as deeply entrenched disparities reign supreme in our education and training system, the noble goal of a better life for all can never be attained.
A study by the Human Sciences Research Council. released early last year, lamented the poor state of SA's schooling and higher education system. Its findings attributed the problems to several factors, including:
lDeclining matric pass rates;
lDeclining enrolments in further education and training (FET) colleges;
lPoor graduation rates in schools, colleges and universities; and
lThe threat that the government might cap university enrolments.
This is why the government identified the need to put in place a comprehensive skills development programme that will eradicate the pernicious legacy of the past. Such an initiative is central to the government's goal of driving economic growth through the developmental state model.
The country can achieve this through the successful implementation of programmes such as the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS), which links education and training to employment opportunities at national and sectoral levels.
Launched in 2001 the NSDS has been implemented in two phases, with the third phase still under discussion. The first phase, which was completed in March 2005, recorded impressive results.
lA remarkable increase in the number of students that achieved the National Qualifications Framework Level 1 from 111367 in 2002-03 to 433437 in 2003-04.
lAn increase in the number of students receiving structured training, from 1,398million in 2002-03 to 1,668million in 2003-04. By March 2004 3,067million had benefitted from the initiative.
lAn increase in the number of registered learnerships from 25341 at the end of 2002-03 to 69308 at the end of 2003-04.
The NSDS has also enjoyed financial support from the private sector.
The second phase, which was implement over the past five years, saw companies contributing an estimated R21,1billion in skills levy, with R16,8billion of that money allocated to the Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) and R5,1billion to the National Skills Fund (NSF).
A draft third phase of the NSDS, which will run from 2010 to 2015, is under discussion and will be unveiled next month.
The continuous improvement of the strategy is a clear indication of government's determination to win the battle against the skills deficit.
The introduction of Setas in 2000 was one of the bold steps that government took in accelerating the country's skills development plan.
Setas are designed to mainstream skills that contribute to the national economy or public service sectors that contribute to service delivery.
According to the Department of Labour the Setas have registered 17228 artisans in training while 109351 workers completed training in scarce and critical skills through learnerships and apprenticeships. The NSF financed 41336 unemployed people's entry into learning programmes.
FET Colleges have also played an integral role in skills development initiatives. Government's allocation of R595million to improve these institutions has been worthwhile.
The Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa) was launched in 2006 to bolster government's quest to achieve the annual economic growth rate of more than 5percent.
Jipsa produced 9000 artisans and 700 engineers in 2007 and aims to produce 50000 artisans and 2000 engineers by 2010.
The global economic meltdown has also prompted public and private institutions to reassess their strategies on how they motivate, retain and develop staff.
Gauteng, as the country's economic hub, has been particularly under pressure to accelerate its skills development and training endeavors.
The province has several mega-projects in progress. Among these are the Bus Rapid Transit, the Gautrain and the upgrading of various stadia that will host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Gauteng is not only home to the country's stock exchange, the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, but has many national and international companies head-quartered here.
Gauteng's vast political and cultural heritage is also driving growth in the tourism sector.
Above all, effective service delivery to the ordinary citizens and the poorest of the poor is impossible without the improvement of the province's skills base within the public sector.
In her maiden address in June, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane stressed the need to integrate the youth into the mainstream economy. She said the focus would be on the promotion of access to education and skills development for out of school and unemployed youth.
The Gauteng City Region Academy is well positioned to contribute to the building of relevant knowledge, skills and talent base.
Vocational education and training programmes have played a crucial role in unlocking the economic potential and enhancing government's capacity to deliver and create an enabling environment in most Asian economies.
Skills shortages have imposed a major constraint on the South African economy's capacity to achieve the kind of sustained economic growth and development that will reduce poverty and facilitate a much wider public participation.
It is therefore vital for SA and Gauteng in particular, to prioritise investment in human capital in order to create a winning nation.
lThe writer is chief executive of the Gauteng City Region Academy, a training and development entity of the Gauteng provincial government