It is “bizarre” to call for the scrapping of Setas (the sector education and training authorities), said Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande on Thursday. The Setas “have a legal duty” to disburse 80% of skills development levy funds, and they must perform their governance function of directing skills training in a partnership between government, business and labour, he said.
Nzimande was opening the two-day National Skills Summit that began on Thursday in Gauteng. Represented at the summit, which follows the summit Nzimande convened last week on further education and training (FET) colleges, are business, labour, and education and training providers including FET colleges, universities and the APPETD (the Associaton of Private Providers of Education, Training and Development).
“Recently, there have been misguided and dangerous calls from some quarters that the Seta system be scrapped altogether and that levy funds be conferred directly to FET colleges,” Nzimande said in his keynote opening address. “These calls are bizarre and ill-considered because they are based on the assumption that the colleges and Setas perform the same function.”
This is not the case, the minister continued. “While the colleges are education and training providers, the Setas do not provide training. They have a legal duty to disburse 80% of the skills development levy funds and are constituted as governance structures to represent a partnership between government, business and labour to direct skills training in various sectors.
“The SETAs also work at different levels of the training hierarchy and are intermediaries between business and training institutions using organised networks for workplace training,” Nzimande said.
Last week’s FET colleges summit and this week’s one on skills summit both flow from the most significant governance change affecting education and training for 10 years: the bringing together under one department, after last year’s elections, of Setas (previously under the eye of the labour department) and FET colleges (previously under the education department and in particular provincial departments).
“The restructuring of the education and training landscape over the past year poses challenges and opportunities that require our collective thinking and participation,” Nzimande said.
“The glue which holds the department of higher education and training together is the preparation of post-school youth for the labour market and to help them to further develop the skills, values and ethics needed to participate usefully in the social, political and cultural life of their communities and society as a whole.
“By bringing together the ‘supply side’-oriented post-school learning system that existed within the [former] department of education and the ‘demand side’ that was previously located in the department of labour, we can address skill deficits and bottlenecks which contribute to the structural constraints to our growth and development path. For the first time the jurisdiction for workplace learning and college based training fall under a single umbrella.”
Nzimande referred to the performance agreement that he, like all cabinet ministers, recently signed with President Jacob Zuma. He said he had called the two-day summit to discuss with labour, business and education and training representatives key areas of his performance agreement. These included:
- Establishing a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning;
- Increasing access to intermediate and high-level learning for youth and adults who do not meet entry requirements for post-school programmes;
- Increasing access to occupationally directed programmes in needed areas with special focus on artisan training;
- Increasing access to high-level skills in target areas such as engineering, animal and health sciences, physical and life sciences and teacher education; and
- Research, development and innovation in human capital for a growing knowledge economy.
This opens up new vistas and the opportunities for the design of ‘pipelines’ from education to work, as well as the inverse, where workers from both the formal and informal economy can return to study to upgrade their knowledge and qualifications for improved income.