Ms Rooksana Rajab, CEO of the Resonance Group of companies
I attended a Board meeting of the Association of Private Providers of Education, Training and Development on 15 May 2012. As a co-opted member, asked to continue assisting the organisation after my term as Chairperson ended three years ago, I know that the organisation was facing several challenges.
Firstly, finding the right kind of person who could lead this non profit organisation into financial stability in itself, was a huge task. Whilst there were several hundred registered members each year, the task of receiving accurate membership fees on time, posed huge problems.
In addition private providers change their status, their address and their contact details without often notifying such a key role player in the education and training sector that they belong to.
Secondly, with the major shift of skills development moving from the Department of Labour to the newly established Department of Higher Education and Training in September 2010 meant different things for different providers and this impacted on how private providers of education and training do business.
Finally the establishment of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) leaves hundreds of providers uncertain of the quality assurance mechanisms still to come. It has brought with it new acronyms such as CEPs, AQPs and DQPs which all of us are trying to make meaning of.
But, despite all of the above, I must profess that I am a proud member of APPETD. The appointment of an Executive Manager, Cynthia Reynders in January 2012 whose official title changed to CEO as of yesterday, has led to a turn around of the organisation in an extremely short time.
This has come at a time when the private provisioning sector has never needed more of a common and strong voice as much as it does now. With a focus of the bulk of the SETA funds being directed towards public institutions, private providers have accepted that public institutions must be upgraded and must be sufficiently capacitated to deliver quality education and training.
None of us want to see this effort or money being wasted. We are keen to participate in partnerships. We are keen to work with the public sector to achieve the objectives of a third National Skills Development Strategy. We are keen to see poor students gain access to free education and training. But to be taken seriously by the authorities that be, we need to be truly representative of the sector and represent large numbers.
As is commonly known, APPETD represents all sizes and shapes of private provider organisations from the very small specialist companies to very large institutions which absorb large numbers of learners who are not readily taken up by public institutions and who create employment without relying on the state. Members offer programmes within all economic sectors of education and training. The number of members is rapidly growing as APPETD once again is in a position to communicate better with its members and lobby on its behalf. Membership subscriptions paid within the first four months of this year has made APPETD financially stable once again.
Ms Reynders has already hosted several workshops for discussion on the Green Paper, a vital document for all of us to have made input into. She has managed to get sponsorships and funding to the value of over R2 million over the next year and these funds are earmarked to host more workshops nationally. These workshops will target private provider employees to understand the current legislation we work in and the implications thereof. Directors and financial managers of member companies will also get an opportunity to attend workshops on corporate governance and responsibilities stipulated by the new Companies Act.
APPETD will be putting together a research project to gather more data on private provisioning in South Africa so that the sector is better understood and the contribution of organisations that do not rely on state funding, yet educate and train people, is properly acknowledged. Whilst most government organisations sit with this data such as the SETAs, SAQA, UMALUSI, HEQC, DHET very little if any work is done to analyse the data and provide fundamental information for national planning. The Green Paper highlights this fact.
APPETD has been invited to be part of all provincial skills development forums, an important structure for planning of education and training in all provinces. APPETD has representatives in the FET and levy chambers of the ETDP SETA as an employer constituency, hence good work is being done towards identifying more appropriate skills needs in the private education and training sector.
This situation has provided me with much needed comfort and hope that our work in educating, training and developing our people will be recognised as worthy and that together we can dispel the notion that private providers are "fly by nights'.
To be an APPETD member means that the provider must be a registered company, must pay taxes unless legally exempt, must be accredited by a quality assurance body, must be in good financial standing and must be registered with the DHET if it offers full qualifications. These are just a few criteria that give APPETD members the credibility so desired by the industry and other stakeholders.
I wish the Board of APPETD, its growing membership and the newly appointed CEO everything of the best at its upcoming Annual General meeting to be held on the 25 May 2012. I certainly look forward to the end of year APPETD Golf Day that will be a sponsored event!