DHET DG Speech to BHP Billiton Skills Summit 2012

Delivered on behalf of Mr Qonde by Mr Mvuyisi Macikama

Mr Mvuyisi Macikama
Mvuyisi Macikama NSF.jpg
Programme Director, Principals of Industry, labour, government, community, institutions of training and other institutions, the organisers, Ladies and Gentleman 

Let me first thank you for inviting the Department of Higher Education and Training to address you at this Skills Development Summit and allowing me to share with you the vision of the Department of Higher Education and Training as well as the work done thus far. I am very pleased that your theme for this conference seeks to unpack skills development as a catalyst to economic development and business growth; it is indeed a timely theme considering the efforts our government is investing to ensure that our country remains afloat in the midst of global economic downturn. It is for this reason that the President assigned outcome 5 of the Medium Term Strategic Framework that relates to “To develop a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive economic growth” to the Minister for Higher Education and Training Dr Bonginkosi Nzimande. Thus, in this input, I will be appealing to all of you to join hands with the Department of Higher Education and Training in ensuring that this mandate is fully achieved even before the end of this administrative term.  

Socio-economic challenges 

“The National Development Plan (2011) states that South Africa as the means, the goodwill, the people and the resources to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality.  We want our children and young people to have better life chances than we have.  At the core of this plan is a focus on capabilities of people and of our country and of creating the opportunities for both.  The capabilities that each person needs to live the life that they desire differ, but must include education and skills...” 

The serious constraints faced by communities in engaging with opportunities for socio-economic upliftment is clearly a cause for concern, and it is suggested that a careful re-evaluation of South Africa’s development paradigm is done urgently. The challenges that face us as a country are enormous. The adoption of the New Growth Path by the government and the focus on creating jobs is largely a recognition that poverty, inequality and social inequities stem from the exclusion of the majority from the labour market. Therefore, higher employment and economic participation would help make progress in reducing poverty and income inequality. But we cannot achieve high employment if we do not address the skills challenges. 

Skills shortage

“The National Development Plan further argues that education, training and innovation are not a solution to all problems, but society’s ability to solve problems, develop competitively, eliminate poverty and reduce inequality is severely hampered without them” 

Skills shortage continues to be one of the major constraints to economic growth and transformation of our economy, and the labour market. Due to the skills shortages, industry including government, cannot implement viable economic opportunities, thus constraining economic growth. Industry constantly complains about this shortage and urges government to intervene. A 2005 study conducted by Ford Foundation found that we had approximately 3 million young people aged between 16 and 24, who are not in employment, education or any form of training. A significant proportion of these had not completed a senior secondary education. This is emphasised by the youth employment ratio for 15 to 24 year olds in South Africa which is currently just 12.5 per cent, meaning that only one in eight young people have a job. Thus they are neither in school nor in employment. The production of skilled human resources is a priority for all of us, both for ensuring that we have a skilled and capable workforce that contributes to economic growth as well as for social stability and equity. 


Removal of barriers to education and training

In 1996, the National Student Financial Aid (NSFAS) was established in order to redress the inequities of the past and to address the rising student debt problem in higher education institutions. This move contributed enormously towards alleviating the challenge of affordability of education; and continues to actively remove the barriers for participation by historically disadvantaged students. We need to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds obtain the necessary support to ensure success in their studies. Foundation programmes offer access to students who show the potential but do not meet the entry requirements. The FET colleges constitute a vital part of South Africa’s post-school education and training landscape and thus provide young people and adults with the key knowledge and skills needed to enter the labour market and to play an important role in both the economic growth path and job creation. Our aim is to ensure the substantial transformation and improvement of the capacity of the colleges over the next few years, making them more appealing as post-school education destinations for young South Africans – many of whom currently opt for University rather than an FET college due to lack of information. The current balance between FET colleges and Universities is inappropriately skewed in favour of Universities and our resolve as the Department is to reverse this anomaly. The post school system especially the FET college sector has to address the skills needs of our country. It is our responsibility and duty to make sure that we produce not only skilled and seasoned graduates but also those that are employable, and can easily and effectively transfer their theoretical knowledge into practice.

NDP outlines key features of the education, training and innovation system in 2013 for DHET as: 
An expanded system of FET and Skills development needs to offer clear and meaningful educational and training opportunities for youth and adults.  Emphasis is placed on ongoing access to learning opportunities and qualifications aligned to higher education.

Universities need to identify their areas of strength and develop centers of excellence in response to the needs of the immediate environment, the African region and global competitiveness.

Partnerships with workplaces, community based organisations and private providers are encouraged to ensure maximum delivery of skills.

We, as the Department of Higher Education and Training are determined to remove blockages to scarce skills supply. We are improving the skills production pipeline in intermediate and high level skills. We are also improving access and articulation in a diverse system of Universities, Further Education and Training Colleges, workplace Skills Development and community skills development centres. We are creating a broader system of options at the disposal of our out of school youth.

Partnership

Our experience as a country is that quality and timely skills development is best achieved through strong partnership between government, business, labour and the SETAs. The overarching public perception of FET colleges and the sector holistically is one that is largely negative, which sees these institutions as inferior and best-suited for those students who have dropped out as well as those who do not qualify to enter higher education institutions. The department has set a target of 70% for the next 3 years for the placement of students in work places for employment and/or work experiential learning.  For 2011/12 this target is 35% and I appeal to the leaders here today to assist the colleges to surpass this target. One of the goals of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS III) is to promote the growth of a public FET college system that is responsive to sector, local, regional and national skills needs and priorities. The public FET college system is central to the government’s programme of skilling and re-skilling the youth and adults. The FET college sector is expected to play a meaningful role in the development of scarce skills and significant progress has been made to overhaul the sector. 

Adult training and community development

AET is self-targeted upon the poor, and there has been a steady accumulation of research findings showing that AET improves the capacity of participants to act with confidence in larger, more public social areas.  Civil society can also be more directly strengthened when support is given to community based NGOs (CBOs) as AET providers. Social capital is therefore built through the provision of programmes that contribute to making the poor more organised, more involved in communities and therefore enabled to set up networks and co-operatives that directly impact on strategies and mechanisms for alleviating poverty. The commitments of the Ministry in the area of adult education and training is around the introduction of a new National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA), the review  and strengthening of the current programmes and the development of a different institution for providing adult education and training programmes. The use of school facilities for providing adult education and training is inappropriate as it limits the extent to which skills programmes may be provided. 

Conclusion

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we work together to transform and strengthen the Post-School Education and Training system, in line with the expectations of millions of South Africans who require training of one form or the other, especially our youth, so that we will create a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path for our country.

Thank you once again and I wish you a fruitful summit.

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