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New skills development strategy for South Africa

Carina de SwardtIssued by the Department of Higher Education and Training, January 2011

The key driving force of the new national skills development strategy (NSDS III) for South Africa is improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the skills development system. The emphasis is particularly on those who do not have relevant technical skills or adequate reading, writing and numeracy skills to enable them to access employment.

The strategy promotes partnerships between employers, public education institutions (FET colleges, universities of technologies and universities), private training providers and SETAs, to ensure that cross-sectoral and inter-sectoral needs are addressed.

The NSDS will be guided by, and measured against, several key developmental and transformation imperatives: race, class, gender, geographic considerations and age differences, as well as disability and the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

The strategy places great emphasis on relevance, quality and sustainability of skills training programmes to ensure that they impact positively on poverty reduction and the eradication of inequalities. It focuses on eight goals, each with accompanying outcomes and outputs which will be used as the basis for monitoring and evaluating NSDS implementation and impact.

There is currently no institutional mechanism that provides credible information and analyses with regard to the supply and demand for skills.

Goal 1: Establishing a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning
Will ensure that the national need in relation to skills development is researched, documented and communicated to enable effective planning across all economic sectors. South Africa faces a shortage of intermediate skills, especially artisan skills. The intention is to ensure that 10 000 artisans per year qualify with relevant skills and find employment.

In relation to higher level professional qualifications, whereas the enrolment and participation rate in our university sector is higher than that of the vocational education and training sector, it is still not producing enough appropriately skilled and qualified people in disciplines central to social and economic development. Many of the professional areas of study combine course work at higher education institutions with structured learning at work. To give greater effect to such programmes and ensure greater employer participation, a pivotal grant has been incorporated into NSDS III. The intention is that 10% of the mandatory grant will be dedicated to this initiative.

Goal 2: Increasing access to occupationally-directed programmes, both intermediate level as well as higher level professional qualifications
Speaks to the above imperatives. The public Further Education and Training (FET) college system is central to government’s programmes of skilling and re-skilling the youth and adults of South Africa. Its transformation is key to the integration of education and training and responding to the skills needs in our country.

Goal 3: Promoting the growth of a public FET college system that is responsive to sector, local, regional and national skills needs and priorities
Will address challenges in this regard. This includes promoting partnerships between the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), SETAs, employers, private providers and public FET colleges to increase capacity to meet industry and developmental needs of the country.

Language, literacy and numeracy skills are fundamental to improved economic and social participation, productivity and social inclusion. In South Africa, there are approximately three million youths between the ages of 18 and 24 years who are not in employment, education or training, have a poor educational foundation and are poorly prepared to undertake further learning.

Goal 4: Addressing the low level of youth and adult language and numeracy skills to enable additional training
Will develop a national strategy to provide all young people leaving school with an opportunity to engage in training or work experience, and improve their employability.

Goal 5: Encouraging better use of workplace-based skills development
Seeks to address the training of employed workers in order to improve productivity and the overall growth and development of our economy. Skills development is not just about training people for employment; it must also empower people to create opportunities to make a living for themselves. NSDS III will support cooperative, NGO, small enterprise, community and worker-initiated skills development and training programmes. Similarly, the National Skills Fund will support credible and quality worker skills development, education and training programmes. This is highlighted in:

Goal 6: Encouraging and supporting cooperatives, small enterprises, worker-initiated, NGO and community training initiatives

Goal 7: Increasing public sector capacity for improved service delivery and supporting the building of a developmental state
Addresses the challenge of public sector capacity. This is taking on renewed importance due to the affirmation by government of the need for a developmental state, capable of intervening in the economy to build an inclusive growth path.

Goal 8: Building career and vocational guidance
Addresses the lack of guidance to direct young people in particular to programmes for which they have an aptitude and which will provide training in areas needed in the economy. Implementing the NSDS III is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders and partners in skills development. We must remember the government’s slogan, namely Together, we can do more.

The DHET is also undertaking a comprehensive review on the spending priorities of the National Skills Fund, in order to reprioritise its funding allocations in line with the goals of NSDS III and our overarching Human Resources Development Strategy for South Africa.

For more information contact Carina de Swardt of Exceed Human Resource Consultants on tel. 021 882 8140 or e-mail