NSDS 3 is now on the table

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Minutes ago, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande revealed the provisions of the third phase of the National Skills Development Strategy. JIM FREEMAN focuses on some of the highlights of the document that will guide skills development for the next five years and he provides a precis for practitioners.


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The big picture of South Africa?s premiere workplace performance improvement programme for the next five years, phase three of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS3), has just been unveiled.
The strategy will be implemented through the country?s main skills development structures - the 21 sector education and training authorities (Setas) - from 1 April. It is the first iteration of the NSDS to be formulated by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which assumed responsibility for skills development from the Department of Labour after the general elections in 2009.
Some features of NSDS3, such as a drop in mandatory grant rates to 40 percent and the creation of a 10 percent PIVOTAL (professional, vocational, technical and academic) placement allowance to compensate for this reduction, have been open secrets for months.
Likewise the heavy emphasis of using skills development levy income resources, including the National Skills Fund, to underwrite capacity-building and opportunity-promotion at public education and training provider institutions.
The final text, however, has found space for some far-reaching and potentially contentious provisions.
One of the bombshells dropped by Minister Blade Nzimande this afternoon concerned the public service and its participation in mainstream skills development activities
"Many efforts have been made to increase skills levels of public service managers, officials and workers,' says the strategy document.
"Virtually all government departments participate in the relevant Setas. They do not pay a [skills development levy] ... but contribute towards the 10 percent administration budget of the Setas.
"As the largest employer in the country, government needs to contribute to skills development resources and ensure their skills needs are catered for in the SETA skill plans. Planning and implementation arrangements for skills development levy payments by government as well as capacity-building for the public service will be reviewed by DHET in cooperation with relevant departments.'
It goes without saying that great swathes of the strategy address Seta performance, management and governance issues.
"On 1 April 2011, the Setas will enter a new phase,' wrote Dr Nzimande in his foreword to the document. "During this new phase we will make some fundamental changes to the leadership, governance and strategy of the Setas in order to meet the objectives of NSDS3 and improve their functioning and performance.
"We also intend to set up a comprehensive performance monitoring, evaluation and support system for all our education, training and skills development institutions, with a particular focus on the Setas and public further education and training (FET) colleges.
"Setas must become recognised experts in relation to skills demand within their sector. Their role in helping monitor quality on the supply side remains but will reduce as other institutions, such as the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, become established.
"Improvement in the performance management system will be introduced to encourage, foster and promote continuous improvement in Seta functioning and performance. Setas must, and will, become essential role players on behalf of government in supporting the decent work agenda, growth and productivity.
Dr Nzimande adds that "central to the objectives of the NSDS3 is improved placement of both students and graduates, especially from the FET colleges and universities of technology. In addition, NSDS3 will place particular emphasis on skills development to support government?s goals for rural development.
The strategy continues: "It is recognised that some Setas have found it difficult to meet the demands of the skills development legislation and align their work to the NSDS.
"Setas are such important institutions and will have such an important role in the NSDS3 implementation that it will be impossible to ignore poor performance in the coming period. The DHET will be monitoring functioning and performance closely and will be intervening when it is not of the required level. New constitutions will be adopted by Setas, based on a common framework provided by the Department. A range of measures are planned to curb excess expenditure on governance and management salaries, and end waste of resources due to corruption of whatever type.
"Setas can achieve high performance if there is improved governance and the Board focus on strategy and sector skills development priorities. In this phase of the NSDS we must ensure that there is:
? "A focus on the scope and mandate of Setas.
? "Improved planning and financial management of skills levy resources.
? "Seta-facilitated training that results in full qualifications.
? "Management of the per capita cost of training and ensuring that investment made in training yields better outcomes.'
The NSF is described as a "catalytic' fund that enables government to drive key skills strategies as well as to meet the training needs of the unemployed, non levy-paying cooperatives, NGOs and community structures and vulnerable groups. As such, it promote strategic partnerships and innovation in project delivery.
The fund "will be used to target gaps and complement resource shortages for national priorities. Funds will be set aside for competitive grants / bids from community-initiated skills development projects and other initiatives in line with the objectives and goals of NSDS3.
"As one of its primary activities, the NSF will develop a strong monitoring and evaluation (MandE) system that will provide the necessary management and oversight assurance required to ensure that funds are spent on the intended beneficiaries and in line with the contract and / or service level agreement (SLA).
"Priorities that will take precedence are:
? "Identified priorities that advance the Human Resource Development Strategy, decided upon in consultation with the Human Resource Development Council.
? "Priorities identified by the Minister after consultation with the National Skills Authority (NSA), and that support the NSA and build the capacity of the social partners.
? "Projects that align with the National Skills Development Strategy in support of the new economic growth path, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, rural development, skills to support the green economy, skills development in education and health, as well as institutions dedicated to the fight against crime and corruption.'
NSDS3 "draws on lessons learned from NSDS1 and 2, and is aimed at ensuring improved access to quality learning programmes, increased relevance of skills development interventions and building strong partnerships between stakeholders and social partners,' said Dr Nzimande.
Key to NSDS3 is a desire to improve "the effectiveness and efficiency of the skills development system' by linking it to career-paths, career-development and promoting sustainable employment as well as in-work progression.
The strategy confronts a number of pressing challenges that prevent the economy from expanding and providing increased employment opportunities. The challenges include:
? Inadequate skills and work-readiness of many young people entering the labour market for the first time, compounded by poor linkages between institutional and workplace learning.
? Continuing skills shortages in the artisanal, technical and professional fields.
? Over-emphasis on National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 1-3 learnerships.
? Need for substantial programmes that improve qualifications, support career-progression, enable greater mobility and increase productivity.
? The failure of many businesses to adapt to change as the economy becomes more knowledge-based, with retrenchments rather than worker -retraining and -redeployment being an all-too-frequent outcome.
? Systemic blockages such as a lack of synergy between post-school sub-systems such as universities, FET colleges and Setas; a lack of clarity on the roles and responsibilities of these sub-systems; inefficiency and waste, and a silo mentality which prevents effective partnerships and alignments.
? The absence of coherent strategies within economic and industrial sectors, compounded by the lack of systematic skills development to support and sustain growth and development.
? The urban bias of economic development, which leads to a similar urban bias in skills development initiatives.
NSDS3 is underpinned by:
? Sector strategies aligned to government- and industry-development initiatives, programmes and projects.
? Relevant sector-based programmes that address the needs of unemployed people and first-time entrants to the labour market. These programmes will be developed and piloted by Setas, with roll out being planned, managed and paid for - where appropriate - by the National Skills Fund (NSF). While Seta monies will primarily be used to fund the skills development needs of employers and workers in their sector, disbursement of (especially) discretionary funds must be guided by the goals of NSDS3.
? PIVOTAL programmes, which provide full occupationally-directed qualifications. These courses will typically start in colleges or universities and include supervised practical learning in a workplace as a prerequisite for graduation.
? Programmes that contribute towards the revitalisation of vocational education and training, including the competence of lecturers and trainers, and their ability to provide work-relevant education and training.
? Partnerships between public and private training providers, between providers and Setas, and between Setas, in order to address inter- and trans-sectoral needs.
? Increased focus on skills for rural development.
GOALS OF NSDS3
The strategy places great emphasis on relevance, quality and sustainability of skills training programmes to ensure they have a positive impact on poverty reduction and inequality.
1. Establishing a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning
There is currently no institutional mechanism that provides credible information and analysis with regard to the supply and demand for skills. While there are a number of disparate information databases and research initiatives, there is no standardised framework for determining skills supply, shortages and vacancies.
Close contact with industry places Setas in a good position to document and communicate recent and emerging trends, as well as to develop solid baseline indicators. Such information is essential in planning to meet the country?s skills needs and guiding investment in education and training provision.
Outcome: National need in relation to skills development is researched, documented and communicated to enable effective planning across all economic sectors
Output 1: Capacity established within the Department of Higher Education and Training to coordinate research and skills planning.
Output 2: Sector skills plans are professionally researched, provide a sound analysis of the sector and articulate an agreed sector strategy to address skills needs.
Output 3: Sector and nationally commissioned research and data is analysed, validated and captured in an integrated database that is accessible to stakeholders.
2. Increasing access to occupationally-directed programmes
There is need to ensure the continuous, measurable upgrade of the intermediate skills pool, especially in artisan-, technician- and related occupations. Setas can play a major role in doing this by, inter alia, using their discretionary funds to provide workplace experiential learning opportunities and help increase the capacity of education and training institutions.
The strategy seeks to encourage and support large corporate employers and state-owned enterprises to cooperate with the relevant education and training institutions by providing needed training equipment and experienced staff to address specific needs.
Workplace learning should be an integral part of all vocational programmes. Establishing effective partnerships between education and training systems and employers would ensure that skills have real labour market relevance and that young people gain an early appreciation of, and exposure to, the world of work.
Higher level
Although participation in the university sector is higher than that of its vocational education and training counterpart, the former is not producing enough appropriately skilled and qualified people in disciplines central to socio-economic development.
Skills levy resources, especially the National Skills Fund, must also support the production of priority skills in high-level occupationally directed programmes in universities, colleges and the workplace.
The DHET, in collaboration with higher education institutions and Setas, will improve capacity to conduct research and underwrite relevant research projects.
PIVOTAL grants
Many professional areas of learning combine classroom study with structured learning in the workplace. Work-integrated learning is achieved through apprenticeships, learnerships, internships, skills programmes and work-experience placements.
To give greater effect to these programmes and ensure greater employer participation, a PIVOTAL grant has also been incorporated into NSDS3. Ten percent of the mandatory grant will be dedicated towards this initiative: employers who provide workplace-based learning opportunities can supplement the cost of the programme with the grant from Setas.
Setas, in turn, are expected to ensure that 10 percent of mandatory grants is ring-fenced to fund these opportunities.
Outcome: Mid-level skills needs are identified and addressed in all sectors
Output 1: Setas research and identify mid-level skills needs in their sectors and put in place strategies to address them, particularly through use of public FET colleges and universities of technology working in partnership with employers providing work-place based training.
Output 2: Projects are established to address mid-level skills in each sector.
Outcome: 10 000 artisans a year qualify with relevant skills and find employment
Output 1: Setas establish projects and partnerships to enable the relevant number of artisans for their sector get trained, qualify and become work-ready.
Output 2: The national Artisan Development Project is planned, managed and reported on, with interventions made where blockages occur.
Outcome: High-level national scarce skills needs are addressed by work-ready graduates from higher education institutions
Output 1: Sector skills plans identify supply challenges in relation to high-level scarce skills gaps and set out strategies for addressing them.
Output 2: Agreements are entered into between Setas, university faculties and other stakeholders on appropriate interventions to support improved entry to priority programmes, increased work experience and experiential learning for students and access to post-graduate work.
Outcome: Relevant research and development and innovation capacity is developed and innovative research projects established
Output 1: Sector skills plans identify the focal areas for research, innovation and development.
Output 2: Agreements are entered into between Setas, university faculties and other stakeholders on flagship research projects linked to sector development in a knowledge economy.
Output 3: Programmes are put in place that focus on the skills needed to produce research that will be relevant and have an impact on the achievement of economic and skills development goals.
3. Promoting growth of a public FET college system that is responsive to sector, local, regional and national skills needs and priorities
The public FET college system is central to the government?s programme of skilling and re-skilling the youth and adults.
In recent years, FET colleges have strived to transform their status as technical colleges to being vibrant post-school institutions for vocational education. The college sector has seen a large investment by the state through the recapitalisation process which started in 2007 but many challenges remain in expanding capacity.
It is crucial that colleges offer a comprehensive suite of programmes and measures to make learning environments more attractive, to increase attendance, to improve post-basic literacy and numeracy and to increase throughput rates.
NSDS3 will support these institutions, ensuring they take centre stage in skills development. The public further education and training institutions as well as universities and universities of technology should have the capacity to deliver skills for the new economy.
In addition, NSDS3 encourages closer co-ordination and collaboration between Setas and public FET colleges in order to strengthen the latter and prioritise them when it comes to training provision.
FET colleges have a difficult task equipping lecturers to meet industry needs. In the past, many lecturers were qualified in the trades and occupations they were teaching but did not have appropriate teaching qualifications. Much has been done to address this but, while they now have education qualifications, many lecturers lack occupational qualifications, relevant occupational work experience and industry contacts.
A critical component of NSDS3 will thus be improving the pedagogical, vocational and technical skills of college lecturers and ensuring they are exposed to the latest developments both in colleges and industry. DHET will work with other higher education bodies to develop a strategy for improving academic staff qualifications and teaching competence across all universities, universities of technology and colleges.

Outcome: The National Certificate (Vocational) and N-courses are recognised by employers as important base qualifications through which young people can obtain marketable vocational skills and work experience

Output1: The NCV is reviewed with inputs from stakeholders and the curriculum is revised to ensure that it provides a sound foundational basis for building relevant labour market skills.
Output 2: Programmes offered to meet industry needs, including those supporting apprenticeships and N-courses, are reviewed, updated and are made available and accessed by employers.
Outcome: Partnerships between DHET, Setas, employers, private providers and public FET colleges result in increased capacity to meet industry needs throughout the country
Output 1: The capacity of FET colleges to provide quality vocational training is reviewed. Each college has a strategic plan in place to build capacity and engage in skills development programmes, including those offered in partnership with employers.
Output 2: Setas identify FET colleges with relevant programmes and put in place partnerships to offer vocational courses and work experience for learners.
Outcome: The academic staff at colleges is able to offer relevant education and training of the required quality
Output 1: The capacity of college educators to deliver programmes is reviewed. Skills development programmes, including work placement opportunities, are devised to meet the needs of college educators.
4. Addressing low levels of language and numeracy skills to provide access to additional training
Many young people who exit school before completing a senior secondary qualification have little chance of participating productively in the economy and there are about 3 million young people aged between 18 and 24 years, who are not in employment, education or training, have a poor educational foundation and are ill-prepared to undertake further learning.
The country cannot afford to overlook this problem and urgent attention needs to be focused on it. DHET will establish institutional frameworks and programmes that will raise the education base of these young people to enable them to take on further learning and/or employment.
Outcome: A national strategy is in place to provide all young people leaving school with an opportunity to engage in training or work experience, and improve their employability
Output 1: DHET leads a participative process to develop a strategy supported by all stakeholders.
Output 2: A national database is created to track training and work opportunities.
Output 3: DHET partners with stakeholders to establish appropriate training and work-experience projects.
5. Encouraging better use of workplace-based skills development
South Africa is plagued by low productivity as well as slow transformation of the labour market, largely as a result of inadequate training of those already in it.
NSDS3, through Seta mandatory and discretionary grants, must support training of employed workers and encourage employers to expand such training in order to improve productivity and address skills imbalances.
Outcome: Training employed workers addresses critical skills, improving productivity, economic growth and the ability of the workforce to respond to changes in the labour market
Output1: Seta stakeholders agree on the provision of substantive programmes for employed workers and report on the impact of training.
Output 2: Projects are put in place to address sector-specific skills gaps.
Output 3: Cross-sectoral projects are established to support local economic development.
6. Support for small enterprises, non-profit organisations, co-operatives and worker-led training initiatives
Skills development must also empower people to create opportunities to make a living for themselves. Low levels of education and training as well as the lack of standardised, appropriate and accredited training are key constraints to enabling people to create their own opportunities. They are also constraints to up-scaling the contribution of co-operatives which, properly supported with adequate skills, can play an important role in both the mainstream and margins of the South African economy.
The DHET will work closely with other departments including Trade and Industry (dti), Economic Development, Land Reform and Rural Development to support the training needs of co-operatives, inter alia by establishing a training academy to deliver customised skills programmes.
Setas must work with co-operatives operating in their sectors in order to maximise the economic role of these bodies. The National Skills Fund will set aside dedicated funds to support education, training and skills development for properly registered co-operatives, with a particular focus on organisations for the unemployed, youth, women and people with disabilities.
Financial and non-financial support to small and micro-sized enterprises has long been part of government?s programme. The DHET, in partnership with dti and in conjunction with Setas, will seek to develop and strengthen dedicated skills development support programmes.
The NSDS3 will support NGO, community and worker-initiated skills development and training programmes. The NSF will similarly aim to support credible and quality worker skills development, education and training programmes.
Outcome: Co-operatives supported with skills development and training in order to contribute more to economic and employment growth
Output 1: Setas identify established and emergent co-operatives in their skills planning research.
Output 2: Sector projects are established by stakeholders and supported by the NSF.
Output 3: A national database of co-operatives supported by skills development programmes is developed and the impact of training is monitored.
Outcome: Partnership projects to provide training and development support to small businesses are established in all sectors and their impact reported on.
Output 1: Setas, through their skills planning research, identify the skills needs of small and emerging businesses in their sector and promote relevant programmes.
Output 2: Sector projects are developed, piloted by Setas and expanded through partnership funding.
Output 3: A national database of small businesses supported by skills development programmes is developed and the impact of training is monitored.
Outcome: Worker, NGO and community-based education programmes are supported and their impact measured and reported on
Output 1: Setas engage with trade unions, NGOs and community-based organisations in their sector to identify skills needs and possible strategies.
Output 2: Setas establish pilot projects.
Output 3: Stakeholders expand successful projects with support of the NSF.
7. Increasing public sector capacity for improved service delivery and supporting the building of a developmental state
There have been significant advances in the transformation of the public service since 1994 but service delivery is often below par. There is one causal factor on which there is unanimous agreement: serious skills gaps.
Historically, the public sector has played a significant role in education and training: state entities offer large numbers of apprenticeships as do municipalities. Similar observations can be made for the provision of literacy and numeracy programmes as well as for the development of high level skills such as planning, environmental management and engineering.
The role of the South African government in driving skills development in these and other important areas has been inconsistent in recent years. It is therefore important that Seta plans are based not only on the needs of the sectors for which they have responsibility but also on those of the government departments and entities that are engaged in sector economic and industrial activity.
Outcome: A thorough analysis and reflection is conducted on provision of education and training within the public sector and the contribution of the various role-players
Output 1: Setas with responsibility for public sector training conduct analysis and reflection on achievements and challenges.
Output 2: DHET leads a discussion on factors affecting provision and publishes proposals on improving the institutional framework for public sector education and training.
Outcome: Education and training plans for the public sector are revised and programmes are implemented to build capacity
Output 1: Sector skills plans set out the capacity needs of relevant departments and entities.
Output 2: Plans are agreed between the relevant department / entity and the Setas, including funding.
8. Building career and vocational guidance
There has not been much emphasis, particularly at school level, on career and vocational guidance. The result is that young people often opt for programmes that are well-marketed or for which financial study aid is available, rather than on the basis of personal aptitude for occupations required by the economy.
The entire skills development system must dedicate the necessary resources to support career and vocational guidance, as this has proven to be a vital component in successful skills development initiatives worldwide. Both the Setas and NSF must seek to build career guidance initiatives.
Outcome: Career paths are mapped to qualifications in all sectors and sub-sectors, and communicated effectively
Output 1: Career guides are developed with labour market information from Setas.
Output 2: Sector stakeholders are engaged and programmes are adjusted to meet the skills and qualification needs for promoting comprehensive career-development
.
9. Encouraging and supporting worker-led, NGO- and community training initiatives
Worker-initiated education and training can contribute to a workforce that is better able to understand the challenges facing the economic sectors in which they operate. This would benefit the workplace, the economy as well as national developmental objectives.
NSDS3 will support NGO, community and worker-initiated skills development and training programmes. The NSF will similarly aim to support credible and quality worker skills development, education and training programmes.
Outcome: Worker, NGO and community-based education programmes are supported and their impact monitored
Output 1: Setas engage with trade unions, NGOs and community-based organisations in their sector and identify skills needs and strategies.
Output 2: Setas establish pilot projects.
Output 3: Stakeholders expand successful projects with support of the NSF.
MONITORING AND EVALUATION (MandE)
The DHET will build the necessary capacity for effective monitoring, evaluation and support to the entire skills development system and its institutions. A clear framework and institutional measures will be developed to undertake effective monitoring, evaluation and support.
For Seta-related activities, tight service level agreements will be entered into with the Department and indicators and targets set. Having learned lessons from NSDS1 and 2, this strategy veers away from setting national targets. Instead, each Seta will have targets which are applicable to its skills set and level, to ensure that programmes and activities are relevant to the sector.
Measures for cross-sectoral collaboration will included in agreements between the DHET and Setas where required.
Monitoring and evaluation of NSDS3 will also focus on qualitative indicators. It is important to evaluate the impact of the initiatives of the strategy and ensure that the programmes provided meet the required quality and relevance.
"Part of our performance monitoring, evaluation and support system will also be to intensify the fight against corruption and "fly by night? institutions and training initiatives. In addition, NSDS3 will aim at eliminating unnecessary "middlemen? in the provision of services,' says the document.
"It is important that MandE is not seen as an add-on or something done independently of our skills development work. Institutions such as Setas and the NSF must conduct consistent monitoring and evaluation, with findings being shared and verified through mechanisms established by DHET.
"DHET in turn will align its MandE systems with government-wide frameworks. In putting such systems in place, it is hoped that a culture of continuous improvement can be instilled and that problems and blockages are identified and addressed timeously.
"It will be important when reviewing NSDS3 implementation, and in preparing for the ensuing five years, that DHET and skills development stakeholders have a well-informed understanding of the impact our structures and resources are having.'
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