Skills Development- Its Journey Past and Present

As I pen this article, I am reminded about the vision of one of the greatest leaders of all times “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela

Change and Innovation is vital to the evolution of the economy in order for it to strengthen and grow. And while there is no simple on and off button, there are certain key drivers that can monitor and regulate the transformation process.

So what drives innovation and how can we use these drivers to boost our education system thus contributing to a more meaningful workforce population?  The answer, although it may seem quite obvious, is the introduction of the National Skills Development Strategy in 2001.

The NSDS is a holistic strategy for skills development and provides direction to sector skills planning, and implementation in the SETAs. It provides a framework for the skills development levy paying organizations’, and provides guidelines on the resource utilization of these institutions as well the NSF, and sets out the parameters of other education and training stakeholders.

2018 marks a significant milestone in the evolution of the NSDS for South Africa.  I call it an evolution because of the many faces it has presented over the years since the implementation of NSDS1

Let’s start of by taking a trip down memory lane and looking at what the change drivers for the respective NSDS models and what it meant or means to the South African Economy.

NSDS 1 started with an emphasis on equality and the need to cultivate lifelong learning in a workplace environment.  A great start, I would say.  Learning was aimed to be driven by demand and on the needs of public and Private sectors. The key deliverables were critical to ensure that the desired outcomes were achieved.  This led to the beginning of the SETA landscape.

The emphasis in NSDS 2 was placed again on equity, quality training and skills development in the workplace. The need for the promotion of employability was identified. NSDS 2 also identified the need for assisting designated groups to gain knowledge and experience in a workplace environment in order to gain critical skills. The quality of the provision was identified as a problem area needing improvement.

In NSDS 3, the emphasis leaned toward that of institutional learning linked to occupationally directed programmes. It promoted the growth of FET Colleges in order to address national skills needs. Better use of workplace skills programmes had been encouraged. Improved service delivery within the public sector  was identified as an imperative.

You see, Innovation and Evolution?

So what will the structure of the delivery agents to NSDS 4 be? And what changes can we anticipate?

There has been much discussion in terms of the changing landscape post March 2018.  Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are currently established until the end of March 2016.  It is proposed that the current SETAs are reconstituted for an additional period of 2 years, i.e 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018 to facilitate the transition.

So what options are there for the proposed SETA Landscape post 2018?

The first option has minimal change and causes minimal disruption to current service delivery. However, this option does not address some of the challenges faced with the current system and does not talk to the establishment of a single Department of Higher Education and Training. This therefore may not be an option for further consideration.

Option two is to cluster the SETAs.  However, this does not offer much change in terms of the current system and there is no clarification in terms of how the clusters would be coordinated and controlled.

The third option presented is the establishment of the Skills Council.  The primary proposed functions of the Council are National Skills Planning, the management of skills development funding, shared resources, standards setting and quality assurance.  I am not entirely convinced that this option is in line with the vision and strategy.

The last and most viable option is that of Option four.  SETAs have been, and are, a key role player in Post schooling education system and ideally should form part of the system under the Department of Higher Education and Training.  It is proposed that the SETAs would be re-established and renamed Sector Education and Training Advisory Boards (SETABs) and become permanent structures of the DHET system.

QCTO will fit into this strategy of a consolidated PSET system and a standardised quality management system. The introduction of the QCTO seems to be a culmination of the objectives and key drivers of NSDS 1 and 2 respectively and is in line with the objectives of driving PSET into an occupational learning and developmentenvironment.  However, the question arises in terms of the mammoth task that awaits QCTO and its readiness to take on this role as the gatekeeper of a consolidated national quality assessment system.  Perhaps 2018 may be a bit optimistic, but as I said earlier in the article, evolution and innovation is imminent.

Whilst timing is a crucial factor, it cannot be used as the benchmark to determine its success, or lack thereof.   It must be seen as the result of 15 years of transformation….and possibly the beginning of the next 15 years ahead.

Thanks to Nellie Naidoo for the great guest blog post!

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