Reflecting on 2010

2010-12-20

This is a belated, but final newsletter for 2010.  As most of you know, I only write a newsletter when there is something to be said. 

This year has seen some signs that the skills development environment is beginning to consolidate – hopefully, this means some stability for at least the next five years. 

It is significant that the long-awaited QCTO has been established, and has started its work:  in 2011 we expect it to start publishing the various regulations relating to the Skills Development Amendment Act (2008) (SDA).  I urge you to make use of any opportunities available to offer comments during the public comment phase;  I will, of course let you know my thoughts, as and when appropriate.

We also saw the launch of the National Artisan Moderating Body during November.  While, to my knowledge, its establishment has not yet been published in the government gazette, this announcement suggests that this is imminent so that it can start its work, in earnest, in the New Year.  This confirms the reinvigoration of the apprenticeship system, about which so many of you have expressed concern.


Among these positive developments, though, was effective departure of Director General, Mary Metcalfe, from the Department of Higher Education and Training;  the Minister’s former adviser Gwebs Qonde, is currently acting in her stead.  Prof Metcalfe is on leave, indefinitely, but that position cannot be filled until the contract is formally terminated. 

On a wider front, the New Economic Growth Path which is now under discussion speaks directly to the importance of skills development in this country.  It reflects the DHET Strategic Plan and the comments emerging from the HRD Council.  Both of which bring me to skills development, which of interest to us all.


Towards the end of the year, I was asked by a number of people to comment on the SETA landscape;  believing that third National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS III) would be released before Christmas, had promised to comment on both at the same time, in my final 2010 newsletter.  However, comments on NSDS III will now have to wait until it is released – hopefully in mid-January.


Now to my comments on the SETA landscape:  in my submission to the Department of Higher Education and Training regarding both the proposals for NSDS III and the SETA landscape, I had confined my remarks to two specific areas:  the proposed establishment Social Development SETA, and the incorporation of Skills Development into the ETDP SETA.  Before commenting, let me remind you of the relevant points I made with excerpts from my submission:


Non-Governmental Organisations and the Proposed Social Development SETA

A reduction in the number of SETAs is to be welcomed, as is the special attention that the Social Development SETA promises to NGOs, community based organisations and development initiatives.  However, given the government’s recognition of the valuable role of NGOs in supporting its work, creating another SETA that will be largely, if not entirely, dependent on government funding needs to be questioned.  Non-governmental- and not-for-profit organisations in civil society operate in virtually every economic sector, which suggests that there is a case to be made for locating them in the SETA (sector) with which their core business is aligned.  This is of particular relevance where NGOs are also engaged in training for that sector, as is the case with private (for- and not-for-profit) training providers.  While this suggestion may not be applicable for all NGOs and/or community organisations, this could have an added benefit of assisting SETAs to identify and work with NGOs doing valuable skills development work in their sector, and thus facilitate partnerships and/or access to discretionary grant support.

Recommendation

Consider encouraging NGOs to locate themselves in the SETA (sector) in which they operate, i.e. that SETA with which their core business is aligned


Re-engineering ETDP to incorporate Skills Development

Changes to this SETA are welcome and it is to be hoped that these changes will herald a new era in which the needs of all skills development (training) providers will be addressed.  Private providers, whether located in industry or not, are generally not accredited through ETDP, a situation that will be perpetuated in the re-engineered entity.  The voices of these practitioners are generally not heard, no matter how vociferous or loud they are.  Given that SETAs focus on levy paying members (which “non-employer” providers are not) this important stakeholder group is often marginalised, a situation further exacerbated by the fact that small businesses fall outside the levy net, thus relegating them even further to the periphery of the skills development milieu in which they operate.

Recommendation

Include, appropriate vehicles/strategies for drawing in the practitioners that work in training providers to ensure that their role in skills development is both valued and supported


Generally, I get the sense that the new SETA landscape is being welcomed – the majority of SETAs are unchanged, but there is some tweaking of others to better reflect the needs of the sectors.  The Minister seems to be taking a hard line on both corruption and ensuring accountability.  This is to be welcomed, and I hope that this hard line is taken to its logical conclusion.


I will deal with the ETDP SETA first:  it has been re-licensed, and neither the Minister’s statement, nor the subsequently government gazette offered any insight into how the mandate of this SETA has changed, so we will still have to wait and see how it is proposed that ETDP practitioners that fall outside the ETDP SETA will be supported.


Finally, I am delighted that we do not have a social development SETA.  NGOs do vital work this country, and many make an important contribution to building the youth, and to skills development.  On the back of this, I cannot but express my disappointment at the amount of money that the government and the lottery have allocated to what appears to have been a disastrous event organised by the National Youth Development Agency.  While young people both deserve, and are entitled to, opportunities to debate local and international issues that affect them, the quality of the arrangements, the infantile type of activities that were “organised” when speakers’ whose participation had not been confirmed understandably did not arrive, forces one to ask whether these funds could not have been better spent.  The outcome of the Lottery Board’s mandatory audit will be interesting, as will its decision regarding the release of the final tranche of funds to the NYDA.


One of the reasons that I, personally, am so incensed about this is because I have the privilege of chairing the Access Trust.  With one and a half staff members, and part time admin support, we support young people, who come from very poor families, who wish to go to FET colleges.  These young men and women, under very difficult circumstances, go on to acquire skills that enable them to get jobs.  We have a winning recipe with a 95% success rate, and have supported some 2,500 young people over the past 12 years.  However, there is only so much we can do with a little over R1,5m each year, especially as the cost of college fees, books, tools and other equipment just escalate.  We are indebted to our loyal donors that enable us to serve around 130 young people a year. 

We would like to do much, much more, but unlocking more funding is well nigh impossible.  All attempts to seek funds from various government sources have proved futile.  Even a small percentage of the funds allocated to the NYDA for that conference, would enable us to exponentially increase the number of young people we support.  They, in turn, would acquire scarce skills and contribute to the South African economy, and of equal importance support their families. 

Although I have ended this newsletter on a negative note, it nevertheless comes to you all with every best wish for 2011.  I know that for many, 2010 was a year of extremes – hard economic times, juxtaposed with euphoria over the Football World Cup and the hope that it represents for us. 

I hope that the best of 2010 is just a soupcon of what 2011 holds for you all!

With every best wish to you, your colleagues and families for a peaceful festive season and for a successful and prosperous 2011

Yours sincerely
Fiona Cameron-Brown
FIONA CAMERON CONSULTING