Comments on draft HRD strategy 2017

The document is based on the flawed assumption that if we carry on doing the same things we have been doing for 10 years, but just increase the numbers and the number and types of institutions, we will address the skills needs, solve unemployment and ensure a better life for all. The focus is on increasing the numbers that we push into and through the system – not on the impact measured in terms of the value added on the demand side.

I don’t see much in the document that addresses key issues such as: How many learners that have gone through the system will find employment? How many will succeed in [email protected], 083 357 6464, 2 establishing viable small businesses? How many will be prepared for the new reality of temporary contract work where the required skills set changes with every contract and too quickly for the QCTO and SAQA to register a qualification against the ‘occupation’? The plan is for the “full and holistic impact evaluation” to be done in 2030, but that will surely be too late for correction, if we pay any attention to warnings about the rapid pace of change in the workplace.

I don’t see anything in the document that reflects an understanding of Clem Sunter’s warning: “that the world of work has changed forever and we are never be going back to the mass employment conditions of the last century. Technology has driven a shaft through many jobs, companies are cutting back on their permanent work-forces by sub-contracting all their non-core activities to others and we now have the concept of on-demand employment where you are hired for a specific time to do a specific job”.

The document is based on assumptions, strongly held views – i.e. ingrained paradigms – about how to address the crises South Africa faces in skills, unemployment and slow economic growth. The authors of the document – and the stakeholders who informed them – will have to realise that there are flaws in this paradigm. The main flawed assumption underlies the strategy that we essentially do same thing we’ve been doing for many years, it just plans to increase the scale of doing the same thing – based on the belief that it will give a different result. My concern is that the authors have not paid attention to the warning (attributed to Einstein) about "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

After working for many years in the post-school system, I am realistic enough to know that the kind of incisive (cutting to the bone), fundamental (to the root) re-evaluation of assumptions and current strategies is not going to happen. So, I believe that we will have an HRD Strategy that reflects noble intentions and says all the right things – but it will not make a significant impact in solving the crises we are already experiencing as we start to feel the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in our economy and in the job market. Finally, I am sure there will be many who will be full of praise for the document, so that will give some balance to my perspective.

By Suzanne Hattingh (Explanation: These are my notes in response to a request to comment on the Draft HRD Strategy.)