In a bid to close South Africa’s skills gap, the country’s colleges and sector education and training authorities – both now under the Department of Education – are to work closely together to increase college enrolment and place college students in workplace programmes.
Speaking in Cape Town this week, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said his department had taken over control of the country’s Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) from the Department of Labour.
He said that while it was business as usual at the Setas, the greatest weakness in South Africa’s skills development system was the lack of alignment between the country’s Further Education and Training FET colleges and Setas.
“That is what really requires a big improvement,” said Nzimande, adding that the National Board of FET colleges and the department would carry out an urgent national audit on the various institutions’ governance and administration.
The audit would also look at whether there were colleges that needed assistance on quality assurance.
Institutions of choice
Nzimande said challenging work lay ahead to make FET colleges institutions of choice for more young people and adults.
“The shape of our post-secondary system is not appropriately balanced between universities and colleges, and while access to universities must be increased, enrolment in colleges must double in the next five years,” he said.
The department was also looking at better aligning the needs and provisions of training and skills development and would be looking at developing better research so that data on such things as skills shortage could be readily available, he said.
Setas were mandated to spend R16-billion and training, with the National Skills Fund making available a further R5-billion.
“Our commitment is on really strengthening the Setas and that they are accountable and able to spend this money in a systematic way,” he said.
Commenting on the government’s R2.4-billion training layoff scheme, Nzimande said the department would monitor Setas that were carrying out training under the scheme, to ensure that “each and every rand and cent is well spent”.
Continued government support
Debate has raged for some time over whether the country’s 23 Setas were responding adequately to SA’s skills challenge, and Nzimande pointed out that he didn’t believe that there was any need to scrap any of the Setas at present.
“I don’t buy this idea that just because there are problems with these Setas that we don’t need them,” he said.
Nzimande said a skills development summit was being planned for first half of 2010 that would look at questions such as whether the number of Setas should be scaled down or not.
He said that, although the Setas continued to face challenges, the government was committed to keeping them.
“We think they are the best vehicles we have at the moment.”