Promoting skills development

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande. (Photo: Madelene Cronjé)

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande. (Photo: Madelene Cronjé)

In 1998, the National Skills Authority (NSA) was established in terms of Section 4 of the Skills Development Act. One of the functions of the NSA is to advise the minister of higher education and training on a National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) as well as guidelines on the implementation of the NSDS, and progress made in its implementation.  

Comprising representatives from organised business, labour, government and other bodies that reflect community and provider interests, the NSA was also tasked with liaising with Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) on the NSDS.

According to the department of labour, the function of the NSDS is to contribute towards sustainable development of skills growth, as well as the “development and equity of skills development institutions, by aligning their work and resources to the skills needs for effective delivery and implementation”.  

NSDS I dealt with the period 2001 to 2005, and NSDS II with the period 2005 to 2010.  The third National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS III, covering the period 2011 to 2016) followed the integration of higher and further education and skills development into a single department of higher education and training (DHET).  

In the foreword to NSDS III, Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande said that partnerships between employers, public education institutions (TVET colleges, universities, universities of technology), private training providers and Setas would be promoted “so that the integration of education and training becomes a reality experienced by all South Africans”.

“Priority will be given to strengthening the relationship between public colleges and universities and the SETAs, as well as with employers,” he said. “NSDS III must ensure increased access to training and skills development opportunities and achieve the fundamental transformation of inequities linked to class, race, gender, age and disability in our society. We must also address the challenges — of skills shortages and mismatches — we face as a country, and improve productivity in the economy.”

NSDS III intended to achieve significant increases in qualifications and skills to support priorities and initiatives such as the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, the Human Resource Development Strategy and, in particular, sector development plans, said Nzimande.

However, in the foreword to DHET’s NSDS III progress report for the period 2011 to 2013, Edward Majadibodu, the chairperson of the NSA, pointed out that the multiplicity of rapidly changing policies, strategies, objectives and goals that impact on skills development has resulted in an environment “which is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to manage”. 

“In addition, there is a need to address possible tensions between government policy directives and the pressing needs of the various economic sectors,” he said.

“However, and notwithstanding the fact that the NSDS III is being implemented during a period of substantial change to the skills development system and skills agenda, there have been notable achievements towards the specific goals of the NSDS III, and the broader goals of South Africa’s human resource development strategies,” Majadibodu stated in the executive summary to the report.  

For example, during the period under review, a Labour Market Intelligence Partnership (LMIP) project had been established under a partnership between the DHET and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), with the HSRC leading a research consortium responsible for supporting the establishment of a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning in South Africa. The LMIP project commenced in February 2012, with an allocation of R74.5-million in funding from the National Skills Fund (NSF).  

During this period the DHET also developed and actioned a Seta/University Engagement Plan which included communicating with the Setas and universities to engage and form partnerships, and arranged Seta/University meetings to lay the foundation for research agreements.