Skills Development in the Public Service: briefing by the Department of Public Service and Administration

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SELECT COMMITTEE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION

SELECT COMMITTEE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION
20 March 2002
SKILLS DEVELOPMENT IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE: BRIEFING BY THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION


Chairperson: Mr Mkhaliphi (ANC)

Documents Handed Out:
Beyond Education and Training in the Public Service
Briefing on Skills Development in the Public Service
PSETA: Sector Skills Plan 2001-2005
Human Resource Development Strategy for the Public Service: 2002-2006 (please email info@pmg.org.za)

SUMMARY
The Department of Public Service and Administration outlined the importance of skills development in the public service sector. The main purpose of the Skills Development Act, 1998 is to develop the skills or human resource of the South African workforce. Moreover, it aims to improve the quality of life of workers, their prospects of work and labour mobility. Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) were set up to provide information to the sector or departments and to compile sector skills plans.

MINUTES

Ms O'Hara Diseko: Department of Public Service and Administration said the Department viewed this meeting as a crucial opportunity to discuss skills development in the public service. Thus, the purpose of the presentation was to highlight the importance of upgrading skills in the public service.

The policy framework is a crucial structure to entice skills development. Due to time constraints she could not devote the entire presentation to deal with the policy framework.

Ms Diseko focused the Committee's attention on the heading of the presentation: 'Beyond Education and Training in the Public Service'. The crux of the presentation would be to focus on skills development for transformation, especially in light of our repressive history. South Africa comes from a past where education and training was very fragmented. The uncoordinated nature of education and training was not connected directly to inefficient service delivery but it has a great impact as there is an increasing use of information, complex technologies and a general rise in the skill requirements of jobs.

Training providers are not meeting the demands of a service-orientated public service. This is largely due to the absence of training strategies for the public service.

In 1998 the Department of Public Services and Administration initiated a White Paper on Public Service Delivery. In the same year the Skills Development Act was promulgated to provide an integrated institutional framework for education, training and development.

Towards implementation
The Department undertook a study in 1994 to investigate training in the public service, the level of competency in the public service and how career opportunities were made available.

The establishment of the Public Sector Education and Training Authorities (PSETA) was crucial to address the complexities of the various systems or units of the Department. Their current role is to function as a consultancy unit to promote skills development.

The purpose of the HRD strategy for the public service is to reconstruct a productive public service and to ensure that education, training and skills development takes place in a coherent and strategic manner. This five-year programme, which end in 2006, aims to reduce the backlog of services and complaints.

The PSETA strategy would propose specific targets and timeframes for development. They provide and submit skills programmes in line with the Skills Development Act and in coherence with the specific Department. The PSETA initiated workshops in the various provinces to provide quality assurance in accordance to needs. A database for training providers was established o ensure quality control programmes in the various departments.

The importance of sector-aimed skills is that all financial assistance and training used are meting the requirements with the specific sector. To focus on the strategy it will equip the various sectors to determine their needs.

Challenges for implementation
The implementation of the PSETA is a challenge to all those committed to Human Resource Development in the public service. Analysis showed that training and education within the departments is not aligned with the function of the Human Resource Development. Another challenge is the inadequate capacity building for skills development trainers. There is also inadequate support within the Departments.

The restructuring and training of the public service created the issue of the deployment or retrenchment of workers. Many Departments have not made any attempt to address this problem.

The Department needs to cultivate a life-long strategy of learning and strong communication, as there are many progressive programmes but departments are not ready or willing to act.

Discussion

A Member asked who should be responsible for the overall co-ordination of these programmes and how the Department proposes to deal with non-compliance by the various Departments. Furthermore, how is this problem linked to the problem of under-qualified teachers?

Ms Diseko explained that the problems have been identified by the human resource development strategy for the country. Through the use of targets and frameworks, a higher level of co-ordination and a comprehensive strategy is promoted.

The PSETA framework's core responsibility is to co-ordinate and ensure that all Departments submit their training plans in order to facilitate a training bridge for the skills gap. Furthermore, to ensure that needs of Departments and workers are being met. Simply put, they help people to become better workers.

The Department of Labour is a crucial actor in the overall co-ordination of the Skills Development Framework as they are responsible for the Skills Development Act. Together with the Department of Public Service and Administration they aim to strengthen co-ordination.

There is no legislation available to combat the issue of non-compliance of Departments. The PSETA strategy relies on persuasion as a means to promote a good stable relationship in the sector.

Mr Willem asked how efficient and effective this training is, seeing that those who underwent training maintain the same mentality.

Ms Diseko informed the Committee that from now on training programmes would be shifted to establish if it would translate into a meaningful activity. Any training must culminate in a useful qualification.

Mr BZ Zulu (ANC) asked whether any improvements have been found since the inception of the new skills training initiative?

Mr Mkhaliphi (ANC) also emphasised the question whether there was any radical change in attitude in service delivery?

Ms Diseko explained that the above question was very difficult to explain, as there are no available statistics to indicate transformation.

Mr Mkhaliphi (ANC) asked the Department if they have any measures in hand to decrease the brain drain from South Africa and at what rate are we losing specialised workers. Furthermore, he asked about possible incentives to reduce the brain drain.

Ms Diseko explained that the national challenge needs to be addressed by the strategy. The target should be training and education from school level to graduate level.

Mr Mkhaliphi asked the Department if they had any interaction with academic institutions, as most degrees and training are euro-centric in nature and could not be applied in the African context.

Ms Diseko agreed with the statement made by Mr Mkhaliphi and indicated that the Department needs to address this issue.

The Chairperson, Mr Mkhaliphi, requested the Department to present the Committee with a diagram of how sectors and Departments interact and relate to each other.

The meeting was adjourned.

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