Sector Education & Training Authorities (FASSET, ETDP & CHIETA) performance briefings

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Labour

10 September 2009
Chairperson: Ms L Yengeni (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Three Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) briefed the Portfolio Committee on Labour on their performance, and progress made in preventing job losses through training initiatives as emphasised by the President in the 2009 State of the Nation Address. 

The SETA for Finance, Accounting, Management consulting and other related services (FASSET) noted that it covered disciplines across the financial area. It had received an unqualified audit report for nine years in a row. It was committed to good corporate governance, and supported the idea of performance audits. Employer participation in this SETA was good, and much training had been done to assist learners to start their own businesses and employ and train others. The initiatives to prevent job losses included lifelong learning, cash grants, learnership cash grants, Adult Basic Education and Training and development projects. Poor matriculation results and dropouts from universities were still a challenge, although it was trying to assist matriculants with Maths and English skills.

The Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (CHIETA) prioritised and communicated scarce and critical skills for sustainable growth, development and equity in the Chemical Industries sector. It provided a knowledge framework for education and training, and aimed to attract, motivate and retain competent people. It had received unqualified audits for eight years. It gave recognition to Grade 12 Maths and Science achievers. It awarded bursaries to 51 students to address the needs of the chemical industry. It had ring-fenced funding to deal with the Training Layoff Scheme. Its total revenue increased by 31%.

The Education Training & Development Practices (ETDP ) SETA trained people to carry out skills development facilitation in the use of the scarce and critical skills guide, and to communicate information to learners widely. It had exceeded its annual targets. Quality Training for All had supported equity targets through workplace skills development plans. Small firms and co-operatives were supported by skills development. The drop out rate and the length of time to complete courses were noted as challenges. Over 2 200 learners had been assisted in skills programmes, which also aimed to place learners to do accredited work, integrated learning and work-based programmes. Student teachers, especially those teaching in the rural areas, were being supported. The equity targets for gender and race were quite good, but there was still a need to increase disability targets. This sector had not yet felt the effects of the recession, although the parents of learners at education institutions might have been affected by job layoffs. However, the ETDP SETA would provide training on generic workplace skills.

Members raised questions on how the SETAs were improving their visibility, marketing themselves and attempting to dispel the misperceptions about their inefficiency across the board. Members asked what interest was shown in these sectors by previously marginalized learners and what was being done to promote careers guidance. Members asked whether labour brokers were involved, what was being done to promote the disabled, what levels of cooperation were found from employers, whether there were databases on those completing the courses, and what was done for those who had been laid off.

Meeting report

Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) Presentations
Seta for Finance, Accounting, Management consulting and other related services (FASSET)

Ms Cheryl James, Chief Executive Officer, FASSET, briefed the Committee on the sector profile, indicating that it covered disciplines across the financial arena. Sub-sectors like accounting, tax and auditing services provided 49% of employment.  Some sub-sectors were dynamic as they covered a large portion of government and public entities such as South African Revenue Services (SARS), which accounted for 14% of the sector, and management consulting firms accounted for 12%, whilst others like investment entities and trusts and stock broking shared the remaining 25%.

Ms James said, in regard to governance issues, that the FASSET had received an unqualified audit report for nine years in a row. To prove that the SETA was committed to good corporate governance, it had introduced a management board and committee performance assessments, as well as an internal audit quality assessment review. It supported the idea of extending the audit to include performance audit.

In respect of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) Year 9 achievements, she said participation rate from employers was large. The SETA had managed to train large numbers of people on one-and two-day programmes. These training programmes enabled learners to develop own businesses, and, having done that, then to take on new learners themselves. 654 new ventures were created and 409 of those were still in operation after twelve months.

Ms Nadine Kater, Chief Operations Officer, FASSET, spoke about initiatives to prevent job losses, noting that employed and unemployed people were given access to Lifelong Learning projects,  strategic cash grants,  learnership cash grants, Adult Basic Education and Training (literacy) projects and development projects.

Ms James noted that more than 30 000 learners were signed up for learnership with the SETA and 15 862 of those had 100% placement in full-time employment. R256 million went to Development Projects to assist matriculants with Maths and English problems, so that they could get access to universities. 41 686 learners completed lifelong learning programmes over the past nine years. She noted, however, that poor matriculation (matric)  results and high drop-out rates at tertiary institutions remained a challenge, and that skills development was a form of unemployment insurance during this recession period.

Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (CHIETA) briefing
Ms Kelebogile Dilotsotlhe, Chief Executive Officer, CHIETA, first briefed the Committee on the SETA’s to give an indication of the background. She mentioned that the SETA acted to prioritise and communicate scarce and critical skills for sustainable growth, development and equity in the Chemical Industries sector, provided a multi-dimension knowledge framework for education and training in the chemical sector, aimed to attract, motivate and retain competent people, and undertook effective gathering and disbursement of funds for the benefit of the sector.

There were five chambers in the levy paying companies, charts were shown indicating levy paying companies by chamber and by sub-sector.

Ms Dilotsotlhe noted that the SETA had received an unqualified audit by the Auditor-General for eight consecutive years. It had been awarded the South African Skills Authority (SAQA) green status and received an award from the South African Society for Co-operative Education (SASCE). CHIETA established a national initiative of celebrating and recognising Grade 12 Maths and Science achievers, piloting this in the North West Province. R1 million in bursaries had been awarded to 51 students in order to address the needs of the chemical industry. Lastly, CHIETA continued to comply with the legislation relating to governance matters and adopted and applied good governance practices throughout the year.

With regard to the Training Layoff Scheme, Ms Dilotsotlhe  emphasised that the CHIETA Governing Board had ring fenced R10 million from discretionary grant funds. Currently, it was involved with the Department of Labour, National Skills Foundation (NSF) and Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, in streamlining operational processes. It was awaiting implementation announcement from the Minister of Labour.

Mr Farhad Motala, Chief Financial Officer, CHIETA, commented on the Annual Financial Statements 2008/09. He noted that all discretionary reserves were fully committed -R162 million in discretionary contracts, R90 million approved by the Discretionary Grant Review committee and R26 million in approved projects and skills priorities. R38 million of surplus reserves were swept to discretionary reserves for sector priorities and strategic projects. A substantial increase in the number of member companies had been recorded. A total return on investment funds for the year was R24.7 million. The total revenue increased by 31%.

Education Training & Development Practices (ETDP ) briefing
Ms Nombulelo Nxesi, Chief Executive Officer, ETDP, told the Committee that the performance of this SETA could be measured against certain National Skills Development objectives. In promoting and communicating critical skills for Sustainable Growth, Development and Equity, she said that annually the ETDP Seta trained about 938 people to carry out skills development facilitation in the use of the scarce and critical skills guide, to communicate information to learners widely. Better advocacy resulted in an increased number of participants in information sharing sessions and the annual target was exceeded.
The ETDP Seta also promoted and accelerated Quality Training for All in the Workplace. Through this,  188 medium firms’ equity targets, by March 2009, were supported by skills development through workplace skills plan and annual training review grants. For this reason, more medium-sized companies submitted the necessary plans and documentation. A total of 14 small Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) firms and co-operatives were supported by skills development. The ETDP SETA had exceeded on these targets, and this had resulted in the SETA supporting four more than the target, due to varying training needs and costs. It also intended to establish educational co-operatives, such as agricultural cooperatives. 369 workers, by March 2009, had entered ABET Levels 1-4.  It was noted there was an increasing demand for entry in the sector. However, it took longer than expected for learners to complete their courses, and there was a high drop-out rate, and this challenge would be addressed.

In promoting employability and sustainable livelihoods through skills development, 835 community based organisations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based co-operatives were supported by skills development. The SETA had achieved this target with an additional 335 organisations, reflecting a greater need on the ground as well as the varying costs of the actual support programmes.

A total of 2 213 learners were assisted in critical skills programmes covered by sector agreements with Further Education and Training (FET) and Higher Education (HE) institutions. These programmes took designated groups, including new entrants, and allowed them to participate in accredited work, integrated learning and work based programmes to acquire critical skills to enter the labour market and self-employment. The ETDP SETA took a strategic business decision to support student teachers, particularly those that were teaching in rural areas. Given that different institutions had different durations of courses, varying from 3 weeks to 6 months, the ETDP SETA was able to target more student teachers for quality teaching and learning outcomes. Charts and graphs indicating ETDP SETA’s achievements for the last four years were presented.

With regard to equity targets, Ms Nxesi noted that for 2008/09 the ETDP SETA had facilitated the implementation of training to 9 466 learners. Of these, 90.8% were black, 9.2% were white, 63.9% were female, 1.8% were people with disabilities and 54.1% were youth. She set out further statistics (see attached presentation) in respect of other programmes.

In relation to the plans to support the Training Layoff Scheme (TLS), she maintained that the ETD sector had not fully felt the impact of the recession yet. The ETDP’s involvement in the first phase of the TLS implementation would prepare it for the knock-on effect of the economic downturn in its sector. Job losses in other sectors would also have a knock-on effect in the ETDP, sector since these employees were parents of children in FET and HE institutions. R30 million was to be made available towards the implementation of TLS. It was envisaged that the money would be used for training on generic workplace skills, in the form of skills programmes in areas identified by employers. The ETDP would participate in the scheme by providing training to about 5 000 employees on skills programmes, at an estimated cost of R6 000 per person per programme.

Discussion
Mr A Louw (DA) asked the SETA representatives how they would make learners aware of their existence, and what would SETAs do with learners who did not make the grade. He further asked if previously marginalised learners were showing an interest in the chemical industry.

Ms S Nxesi replied that currently at schools there was no subject of career guidance. The ETDP had developed a career guidance booklet for learners, which it distributed to schools with the help of the Department of Education. It would also hold imbizos in rural schools and universities. There were no programmes to address those learners who did not make the grade.

Ms Dilotsotlhe  explained that marginalised school learners were not particularly interested in her SETA’s programmes, but CHIETA was publicizing itself through Expos, National Science Week and sensitising learners to programmes that targeted maths and science.

Mr E Nyekembe (ANC) asked FASSET and CHIETA to explain what they were trying to do to accommodate the disabled. Secondly he wanted to know the involvement of labour brokers in the work of SETAs. Thirdly, he wanted to know what was behind  the criticism that the SETAs were not doing their work.

Mr T Channing, representative from CHIETA, acknowledged that finding work for the disabled within the chemical industry remained a challenge, for health and safety reasons. He said that plans were afoot to accelerate disability programmes.

Ms James added that 4% of disabled people had been supported through her SETA, and there were success stories. Learnership cash grants had been awarded to small firms who employed the disabled.

Both Ms James and Ms Nxesi, on the issue of labour brokers, explained there were no brokers within the SETA sector that placed people in positions. SETA did not actually work with them. Instead, it would use training providers who had been accredited and were on their databases. They noted that trainers, in order to be accredited to train people, would have to be registered and qualified. The challenge was to monitor what happened on the sites.

Ms Dilotsotlhe  explained that the criticism probably emanated largely from the confusion around the mandate of SETAs. Their evaluation tended to be done on a very generalised level. She said funds were committed but there were reserves. She also noted that often the successes of the SETAs would not be communicated well to counteract the bad public perception of SETAs, so that it was only the criticism that was remembered by the public.

Mr W Madisha (COPE) commended the SETAs for having increased their achievements, and requested the Department of Labour to hasten the work done by them. However, he wanted clarity on the reported lack of cooperation from employers, what was being done to trace those who had completed the courses, and what was done for people who might have been trained, found work, but then found themselves retrenched through their companies closing.

Ms Nxesi said, in response to the query about lack of cooperation, that SETAs did not have workplace assessors to support workers at work. Secondly, several employers did not open space for employees to learn during the day. The SETAs trained thousands of people every day, but it must remember that skills would become obsolete due to technology, and that on weekends the universities and FET Colleges were not teaching. She suggested that there should be a focus on the depth of training, irrespective of the numbers.

Ms James and Ms Dilotsotlhe  responded on the tracking of new graduands. Both said that learners were tracked for at least a year after completion. The problem was that young people were mobile, which made it difficult to track their progress and whereabouts for much longer. The oil and petroleum companies have approached the SETA to train employees, and the companies were committed to keeping the SETA informed of the progress of those trained.

Ms Nxesi noted that the SETA would work closely with companies in their sector. Retrenched people were considered “unemployed” but there were development projects by other SETAs that looked into that problem.

The Chairperson asked the SETAs if companies referred employees to the SETAs for training on behalf of the companies.

Ms James responded that the SETAs had not received those requests. Employers were looking only for assistance. They requested re-training and up-skilling of their workers. That already had been done in 40 towns around the country, and these programmes were run on a continuous basis.

Mr Sam Morotoba, Deputy Director General, Department of Labour, told the Committee that in terms of career guidance and placement his Department was governed by conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). He also said he agreed with the sentiments shared by the presenters from the SETAs. There was a lack of information about SETAs, although the Act was quite clear about the functions of them. He emphasised that the SETAs would not do the training themselves, but would outsource the necessary training and facilitate the process. Training happened at the workplace. SETAs did not own schools.
He also said that in some cases workers might require training that might take a long time. For example, they may be trained for a period of seven months in a year and the other three months would be spent in a private or public institution. In most cases companies tended to work with private institutions. In future, the Department would try to finalise the issue of private and public institutions. Furthermore, the Department had received proposals about training Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises that did not have an infrastructure. As a result, an Employment and Skills Development Agency had been established, but it was regulated.

Mr Morotoba noted that the Department had made a clear distinction between them labour brokers and employment services agencies. Labour brokers were regarded as those people who would recruit people, and “sell” them to perform work for others at a cheaper price. The Department was aware that the SETAs used intermediaries who might operate in both labour broking and employment agency work, and that might create problems for them and the Department, hence the Department was doing research into this.

Mr Morotoba commented on the Training Layoff Scheme. There were six areas identified where assistance was available. These areas were the South African Revenue Services custom programme, the Industrial Development Corporation, which supported companies in distress, the Competition Commission, which would deal with those colluding in price-fixing, the Key Sector Support for the textile industry, The National Debt Mediation Association, for people who were indebted; and the Training Layoff Scheme. The Training Layoff was the most advanced of the six in terms of implementation. Guidelines were published on how the CCMA would deal with companies in distress. He pointed out that it was necessary to distinguish between the genuine cases and those who were simply trying to take a chance.

The meeting was adjourned.

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