National Skills Development Strategy - what has changed?


National Skills Development Strategy I, II, and III

What has changed?

The Skills Development Act and the Skills Development Levies Act were passed in 1998 and 1999 respectively. The legislation charged the Minister of Labour to prepare a National Skills Development Strategy, taking into consideration the advice of the National Skills Authority.

The reason being that South Africa was not yet equipped with the skills it needed for economic growth, social development and sustainable employment growth.

The National Skills Authority was established in terms of the Skills Development Act of 1998 and was made up of representatives from organised business, labour, government and other bodies that reflected community and provider interests.

The function of the National Skills Authority included

* Advising the Minister of Labour on a National Skills Development strategy

* Liaising with Sector Education and Training Authorities on this strategy

* Reporting to the Minister on the implementation of the strategy

The Government's commitment to promoting active labour market policies is well demonstrated in the Skills Development Act, 1998 and the Skills Development Levies Act, 1999.

These two pieces of legislation introduced new institutions, programmes and funding policies designed to increase investment in skills development.

There are two over-riding priorities this legislation sought to address

* The need to increase skills in order to improve productivity and competitiveness of industry, business, commerce and services.

* The need to address the challenges of social development and the eradication of poverty.

The introduction and implementation of Skills Development Legislation had begun.

In April 1999 the National Skills Authority was established and in March 2000 we saw the introduction of the 25 Sector Education and Training Authorities better know as the SETAS.

This led to the introduction of a 1% payroll levy intended to fund the new skills development implementation framework and to provide grants to encourage employers to invest in training and the development of their staff.

National Skills Development Strategy I - 2001 to 2005

The Vision

The title of the First National Skills Development Strategy document was "Skills for Productive Citizenship for all'.

The Vision was driven by six guiding principles

* Lifelong learning - continually upgrading and improving

* The promotion of equity - Opportunities for disadvantaged as well as advantaged

* Demand Driven to support and enhance productivity

* Flexible - Employers, both Public and Private as well as the workers are best placed to make judgements about priorities

* Partnership and cooperation between and amongst the social constituencies

* Efficiency and effectiveness in delivery leading to positive outcomes for all those who invest in training and skills development

In order to reach this vision five objectives were identified to drive the National Skills Strategy

* To develop a culture of high quality lifelong learning

* To foster skills development in the formal economy for productivity and employability

* To stimulate and support skills development in small businesses

* To promote skills development for employability and sustainable livelihoods through social development initiatives

* To assist new entrants into employment

National Skills Development Strategy II - 2005 to 2010

The National Skills Development Strategy for the period 2005 to 2010 (NSDS II) was launched by the Minister of Labour at the National Skills Conference in March 2005. The adjusted Strategy replaced the first National Skills Development Strategy 2001 - 2005.

The title of NSDS II was "Skills for sustainable growth, development and equity'

The vision was driven by five objectives as listed below

* Prioritising and communicating critical skills for sustainable growth, development and equity

* Promoting and accelerating quality training for all in the workplace

* Promoting employability and sustainable livelihoods through skills development

* Assisting designated groups, including new entrants to participate in accredited work, integrated learning and work-based programmes to acquire critical skills to enter the labour market and self-employment

* Improving the quality and relevance of provision

The guiding principles of NSDS II were

* Support economic growth for employment creation and poverty eradication

* Promote productive citizenship for all by aligning skills development with national strategies for growth and development

* Accelerate Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment and Employment Equity. (85% Black, 54% women and 4% people with disabilities, including youth in all categories). Learners with disabilities to be provided with reasonable accommodation such as assistive devices and access to learning and training material to enable them to have access to and participate in skills development

* Support, monitor and evaluate the delivery and quality assurance systems necessary for the implementation of the NSDS

* Advance the culture of excellence in skills development and lifelong learning

"The third National Skills Development Strategy follows the integration of higher and further education and skills development into a single Department of Higher Education and Training.

Partnerships between employers, public education institutions (FET colleges, universities, universities of technology), private training providers and SETA'S will 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 SETA?S, as well as with employers.' (Ministers Forward)

The vision

A skilled and capable workforce that shares in, and contributes to, the benefits and opportunities of economic expansion and an inclusive growth path

The Mission

To increase access to high quality and relevant education and training and skills development opportunities, including workplace learning and experience, to enable effective participation in the economy and society by all South Africans and reduce inequalities

The key driving forces are

* The improvement, effectiveness and efficiency of the skills development system

* An explicit commitment to encouraging the linking of skills development to career paths, career development and promoting sustainable employment and work progression.

* NSDS III seeks to encourage and actively support the integration of workplace training with theoretical learning

* Emphasis is placed on training to enable trainees to enter the formal workforce or create a livelihood for themselves.

* Promotion of basic numeracy and literacy

The vision of NSDS III is driven by eight objectives

* Establishing a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning

* Increasing access to occupationally-directed programmes

* Promoting the growth of a public FET college system that is responsive to sector, local, regional and national skills needs and priorities

* Addressing the low level of youth and adult language and numeracy skills to enable additional training

* Encouraging better use of workplace-based skills development

* Encouraging and supporting cooperatives, small enterprises, worker-initiated, NGO and community training initiatives

* Increasing public sector capacity for improved service delivery and supporting the building of a developmental state

* Building career and vocational guidance

Summary and comment

In NSDS I - The emphasis was place on equality and the need to cultivate lifelong learning in a workplace environment. Learning should be demand driven based on the needs of employees in both the public and Private sectors. The effectiveness of delivery was essential in order to ensure desired outcomes were achieved.

The emphasis in NSDS II was placed again on equity, quality training and skills development in the workplace. The need for the promotion of employability was identified. NSDS II 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 swings in the direction of institutional learning linked to occupationally directed programmes. It promotes the growth of FET Colleges in order to address national skills needs. Better use of workplace skills programmes is encouraged as is the use of worker- initiated training initiatives. Public sector improved service delivery is seen as an imperative. The issue of language and literacy is of concern in terms of enabling additional learning.

Studying the NSDS III document as a stand alone intervention leads me to question many aspects and is a cause of concern to me. However when studied in the light of revised legislation and the Skills Development Amendment Act of 2008 then I feel reassured and more confident of the future. NSDS III should be considered in conjunction with the introduction of the QCTO

Consider the following

* The shift appears to be away workplace learning to institutional learning particularly in so far as full qualifications are concerned

* Qualification and unit standards as we have known them will cease to exist and new QCTO Qualifications will be made up of Theory, Practical and Experience components to ensure learners are competent to do something related to a specific occupation or "job task'. This I think will be aligned to OFO?s. QCTO is still silent on this issue - Let?s see what emerges in April.

* Numeracy and literacy are referred to as a means of assisting learners in gaining access to further learning. However full ABET qualifications are not mentioned

* Public providers now take centre stage but there is a need to bring them up to standard. This does not mean that private providers no longer have a role to play. There is more than enough work for all at least for the duration of NSDS III.

* Priority is to be given to upgrading the public colleges, universities of technology and universities so that quality provision can be made accessible to many more learners, particularly those who cannot afford market-linked fees.

* NSDS III will operate in a new environment that requires full partnerships between workplaces and both public and private institutions

* There are many possibilities but also constraints in the effective utilisation and development of skills in relation to government priorities, the objectives of the HRDS, the NSDS and proposed Growth and Development Strategies

* I still believe there will be 4 distinct programme types

-- * Foundation programmes to facilitate Access, Success and Progression

-- * Pivotal programmes - Professional, Vocational, Technical and Academic

-- * Skills programmes or short programmes of a developmental or complimentary nature

-- * Academic and Professional

* RPL has been a bone of contention and has been ignored by many SETAS and providers in the past. Surprisingly it has not been mentioned in NSDS III. This is of concern

The success or failure of NSDS III depends on the participation and cooperation of all role players and on the creation of partnerships for the benefit of the recipients i.e. the learners.

The minister has stated that "tight service level agreements will be entered into' with the Department of Higher Education and the SETAS. The lessons learned NSDS I and II indicate that each SETA will have to set separate and stand alone targets based on its "skills set and level' and will no longer have to comply with National targets. The object is to ensure the programmes and activities of the particular SETA are relevant to the sector.

Des Squire (Managing Member)

For more information or to book for the workshop "Putting NSDS III to work' contact Des directly by e-mail.