Statement by Minister Blade Nzimande on Transfer of the Skills Development &Training Sector to Department of Higher Education & Training


03 Nov 2009

From 1 November 2009 the Department of Higher Education and Training assumed responsibility for the skills development and training sector in government. The Department was now responsible for a range of institutions and public entities which were previously distributed across both the Departments of Education and Labour. Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mr Blade Nzimande, focused on the Further Education and Training subsystem and the skills subsystem.


Q: What happened to the plan to decrease the amount of Sector Education Training Authorities (SETA’s)? Are the institutions suitable for carrying out the training layout scheme?

A: The Minister could not answer this question in “abstract”. That was why part of the discussion and debate was alignment with the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS), specifically with the Industrial Policy and the Human Resources Development Strategy. The discussion had to centre on how many SETA's were needed and how they should be structured given the NSDS. He did not buy the idea that just because there were problems with the SETA's they were not needed. The challenge for the government was to identify the problems with SETA's and to strengthen the public accountability of SETA's, especially regarding government funds. The government wanted to strengthen SETA's so that they could spend funds in a systematic way.

Ms Mary Metcalfe, Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DoHET), stated that the training layoff scheme was very important; however, it was built on a system that had some weaknesses. It was the only system the Department had for training layoffs; however, the Department was committed to the monitoring and public reporting of the scheme's progress.

Q: What will the Department be doing between now and 2011 on the implementation of the National Skills Development Strategy 3 (NSDS3) with specific regard to the introduction of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), the public participation process in drawing up NSDS3? What are your thoughts on an increase in skills development levies or a reduction in mandatory grant payments? Could you give some timelines for these? 

A: Ms Metcalfe stated that there had to be greater alignment between the NSDS3 and the Human Resources Development Strategy (HRDS). There also had to be greater research capacity in the development of the NSDS. This meant that public participation would be built on much greater rigor. The Department wanted to see if there were ways of developing greater efficiency and strengths through the QCTO. The Department acknowledged the work of the QCTO and understood that it needed to continue its work as it was a complementary system to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

Ms Metcalfe stated the Department would continue with its plans to establish a board for the QCTO. Nominations had already been received from stakeholder groups. The Department was going to ask the board to start conversations with related qualifications and quality assurance bodies.

Ms Metcalfe was not aware of any discussions concerning the reduction in grant payments or the increase in skills development levies. She would find out about it.

Q: The Minister mentioned the reconfiguration of the landscape of the SETAs. Could you expand on this?

A: The Minister stated that there had been a debate for quite some time as to whether the 23 SETAs were appropriately structured and whether they were adequately responding to the challenges of skills development. The question was raised as to whether the number of SETAs should be reduced by combining related SETAs. This was what the Minister wanted to tackle head on from now until the end of March 2011. This would be done through a national debate and discussion with relevant stakeholders. There were plans to convene a skills summit next year.

Q: Do you have any idea what the log jams were with the unblocking of funds in the National Skills Fund (NSF)? Do you know what the problems are with the Fund and do you have any idea how to resolve them?

A: The Minister replied that the national skills system held approximately R21 billion; approximately R16 billion in the SETA's and about R5 billion in the NSF. This was a large amount of money so it was important that every cent went where it was supposed to be and that it had the kind of impact it was supposed to have.

Ms Metcalfe stated that some of the blockages were because there was not sufficient articulation between providers of the funds and the strategy in those institutions. Blockages also occurred because the imagination of what was possible between SETA's and universities had not been explored. The imagination of what was possible between the SETA's and FET colleges had only just begun to be explored. These relationships were crucial because the industries, both labour and business, needed formal institutions in order to fulfil on the collective actions upon which they had agreed. The Department assumed responsibility of the NSF on the 1st November 2009 and one of the Department's priorities was to sit down with the NSF, begin to understand how it worked and start to resolve some of the complaints put forward by the institutions. The Department wanted to see how it could facilitate the full use of the funds.

Q: Please expand on the auditing of FET colleges? What does it entail?

A: Ms Metcalfe stated that the FET colleges went through enormous changes over the past few years in terms of the curriculum. One of the major changes regarded the governance of the FET colleges. This resulted in FET colleges having greater flexibility regarding employment matters; however, there were serious questions about the “evenness” across the FET subsystem of different institutions being able to manage the responsibilities of being the employer.  The Department, together with the National Board for Further Education and Training and other stakeholders such as college councils, were going to assess if there was a need for a differentiated model where strong colleges that had capacity would be able to “move” and colleges that needed assistance would be given what they needed. The model would look at administration, governance and mechanisms of quality assurance within the colleges.

Q: We still don't know if you are committed to keeping SETA's as the basic structure indefinitely or whether you are open to maybe building something entirely different? Do you believe the negative perception that SETA's have are undeserved?

A: The Minister stated that the government was committed to keeping SETA's as they were the best possible vehicles that the government had. There was unevenness and a number of challenges associated with SETA's; however, it was better for the government to seek to resolve those challenges. The second part of the solution was to check if all 23 SETA's were viable and whether the number of SETA's had to be guided by what the government wanted to achieve. The most important message that they wanted to send out was the need for better SETA alignment with the college sector and universities of technology. This was the greatest weakness concerning SETA's.

Q: What is the Department going to do to capacitate itself for the skills development section? What does the new alignment with FET colleges mean for private providers?

A: Ms Metcalfe explained that there were lots of new and exciting developments taking place; however, the existing work would continue. All institutions had their individual programmes and had allocated budgets for the year, and they would continue with those. The Department was asking these institutions to imagine new possibilities and rethink some old boundaries. In terms of capacity, the Department was involved in a very exciting project that was looking at the macro-organisation of the state. The project was working towards “conclusion” in the sense that the personnel within Education and Labour Departments' would in time become part of the DoHET. From this week, the skills branch from the Department of Labour would report to the Minister of HET.

Ms Metcalfe stated that the Department had a very good system of provision that included both private and public providers. The Department also believed that both public and private providers had important contributions to make and should be developing appropriate relationships with the SETA's.

Q:  What are the Department's next steps?

A: The Minister stated that there were a number of steps that were going to be taken. The SETA's had submitted their applications for re-licensing as per the original plan. The re-licensing process would have expired in March 2010 but was now extended by one year and the Department then asked the SETA's to take another look at the plans they submitted in line with government and Departmental priorities. The SETA's agreed to do so by the end of November. Some of the priorities were contained in the NSDS; however, these priorities needed to be elevated more during this particular period. A meeting would be held with universities, SETA's and FET colleges representatives where they would sit down and look at the “synergies”. One milestone was the January Cabinet Lekgotla where the Department wanted some of these processes to be displayed. The Minister wanted to go to the Lekgotla having a clear understanding and agreement of priorities needed for 2010/11. The Department then would also be working towards a skills summit where the alignment of NSDS3 would be looked at. 

The briefing came to a close.

Media statement by Minister Blade Nzimande on the transfer of the Skills Development and Training Sector to the Department of Higher Education and Training

4 November 2009

From Sunday, 1 November 2009, the Department of Higher Education and Training assumed responsibility for the skills development and training sector in government. This is an exciting development in the post-election restructuring of government to be more responsive to the developmental, social and economic needs of our country.

We are now responsible for a range of institutions and public entities which were previously distributed across both the Departments of Education and of Labour. The Ministry of Higher Education and Training also hosts the secretariat of the human resource development strategy for South Africa, which is led by the Deputy President.

The creation of the Ministry and Department of Higher Education and Training provides an opportunity, at a critical moment in our history, for the creation of a coherent and single post-school education and training system that is structured both to meet the aspirations of youth and adults and to ensure that education, training and skills development initiatives respond to the requirements of the economy, our rural development challenges, and the need to develop an informed and critical citizenry.

During 2010, the ministry will work with stakeholders to develop a policy framework for a diverse post school education and training system which will be responsive to identified challenges and our collective aspirations, including transformation imperatives.

The Further Education and Training College sub-system

The Further Education and Training (FET) College subsystem has grown and changed over the last fifteen years, and further changes are anticipated with the move of the colleges to a national function. Challenging work lies ahead to make colleges institutions of choice for many more young people and adults.
The shape of our post-secondary system is not appropriately balanced between Universities and colleges, and whilst access to universities must be increased, enrolment in Colleges must double in the next five years.

We will consolidate the institutional base for FET colleges in partnership with the skills development system and improve responsiveness to the needs of the economy. We will work closely with the National Board for Further Education and Training to review the impact of the some of the recent changes, particularly in the management and governance structures. The National Board for Further Education and Training (NBFET) and the Ministry have agreed on an urgent national audit on individual institutional of governance and administration.

The skills sub-system

Despite gains made to date in the area of skills development and training, the Ministry of Higher Education and Training must address a number of challenges which have limited the effectiveness of the policy intentions. These include:
* How to build a viable system of education and training that will respond to the needs of adults and youth: the self-employed; the unemployed; those with unrecognised skills; as well as the employed
* Improved coordination between the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA) system and education and training institutions, particularly FET Colleges and Universities of Technology
* Negative perceptions of SETAs performance, management and governance
* The unblocking of funds in the national skills fund which must include a review of systems, procedures and of decision making
* Inadequate alignment of industry needs and provision of training and skills development and in particular the need to increase the supply of artisans and technicians
* Finalisation of industrial policy action plans to improve the effectiveness of skills development efforts. This is necessary to ensure the alignment of the sector skills plans of the 23 SETAs to steer skills development strategies for the development of the labour force of our country.

The relocation of the skills development subsystem into the Ministry of Higher Education and Training thus provides an opportunity to reconceptualise strategies for skills development within the larger unified higher education and training system with positive potential impacts on the post school education and training system.

In meetings with the National Skills Authority (NSA) which is responsible for advising the Minister on skills development policy we have agreed that:
* The NSA needs to be strengthened in order to perform its expert advisory role
* The NSA must have administrative, policy and research capacity to support its work
* Alignment of the work of the NSA with HRD-SA is a priority
* The relationship between the NSA and other statutory bodies needs to be strengthened.

Supporting the NSA to fulfil its important functions is a priority for my ministry. A strategic planning session of the NSA with the ministry is scheduled for the first week of December.

I have appointed the Director-General for Higher Education and Training as the Chairperson of the NSA during this important period of transition in order to strengthen relationships between my Department and the NSA. This is an interim arrangement until a new NSA Chairperson is appointed.

I wish to also announce that after consultation with the National Skills Authority, I will be gazetting the extension of the national skills development strategy two and current SETA licence by one year, from March 2010 to March 2011. I have informed all the Chairpersons of the Board of SETAs as well as their CEOs of this decision.

It is my considered view, supported by the NSA, that this extension is important to ensure alignment of the national skills development strategy with HRD-SA and to allow some deliberation on the way forward. Current mechanisms contained in NSDS two will be emphasised in the Service Level Agreements between the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and SETAs for the 2010 financial year in order to ensure alignment with government’s strategic priorities and to focus on immediate priorities such as:
* SETA/FET College partnerships (particularly on training and placement)
* The provision of opportunities for work-based learning to accompany formal learning in colleges and universities of technology
* Skills for rural development and cooperatives
* The training layoff scheme
* Intensified artisan training.

SETAs will to continue with their current mandate and implement their 2010/11 Service Level Agreements as well as contribute to the new strategies to finalise NSDS three.

These extensions will ensure both continuity and change. Service delivery will continue, and be consolidated whilst the new Department of Higher Education and Training will take forward inclusive processes, with its social partners, to renew and refresh strategies, policy and institutions in order to strengthen the skills and human resource base of the country.

We will be actively pursuing collaborative relationships between the SETAs, the NSF, universities – especially universities of technology and FETs in order to seek ways to release funds to grow the skills base.

We are working to ensure the smooth incorporation of the skills development and training component and look forward to building a strong, focused and performance team in the department with an overall goal of creating synergy between formal education and workplace training. The move is set to overhaul the education and training landscape in South Africa and we invite the private sector, organized labour and civil society to actively participate and join the skills revolution in our country.



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