SMART skills TRAINing

The Manufacturing, Engineering and related Services Education and Training Authority, Merseta, has launched a small- and medium-enterprise (SME) training voucher project.

This entails the development of a web-based system by Merseta to generate vouchers that can be traded for a Merseta pre-approved training course. More than 115 SMEs are to benefit from the R1,5million pilot phase launch.

The project, launched in Johannesburg early last month, has set aside R90million for the development of SME skills in the manufacturing and engineering sector until March 2010.

Merseta is one of the 23 Services Education and Training Authorities (Setas) established through the Skills Development Act. It facilitates skills development in the metal and engineering, auto manufacturing, motor retail and component manufacturing, tyre manufacturing and the plastics industries.

Together the five sub-sectors comprise about 44000 companies, with a workforce of about 600000. The total levy income is estimated at R600million.

The Merseta, like other Setas, plays a role in ensuring that the national skills development strategy is fulfilled. Merseta does not train, instead it accredits training providers and monitors the quality of training.

Speaking at the launch of Merseta, chief executive Raymond Patel said that of the 19000 SMEs exempted from paying levies, 6000 are using Merseta's services.

"It is for this reason that we undertook research to propose a comprehensive SME strategy for the sector," said Patel.

For a company to participate in the project it must be registered with Merseta and have less than 50 employees. The project is open to levy-paying and non-levy paying companies. Companies can apply for vouchers worth up to R5200 a person and should not exceed R26000 for each SME company. The courses offered range from adult basic education and training to technical or industry specific courses. The training voucher's approval turnaround time is 24 hours.