Progress on the National Skills Development Strategy: briefing by Department of Labour

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Labour

24 June 2002
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Meeting report

LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 June 2002
PROGRESS ON THE NATIONAL SKILLS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME: BRIEFING BY THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR

Chairperson: Ms E Thabethe (ANC)


Documents handed out:
National Skills Development Strategy: Presentation
Overview of National Skills Development Strategy
The role of SETAs and other information documents on Skills Development Act (Labour Department website)

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed by the Department on the National Skills Development Strategy. The Committee was concerned with the practical effect of SETAs and in discussion raised issues regarding the practical effect of SETAs on domestic workers and disabled persons. Included in the discussion were fraud, theft and the negative effect of publicity on the program. The overall view of the Committee was that the program is progressive and working well. A more detailed presentation will be held in September to discuss the issues not clarified during the meeting. A video presentation was also given to the Committee to highlight the practical effect of SETAs around the country.

MINUTES
The Department of Labour briefed the Committee on the progress and implementation of the National Skills Development Strategy. The Department team was led by Ms Adrian Bird: head the skills development division and included Mr J du Preez, Mr R Naidoo and Ms S Nomvete.

The Minister of Labour launched the strategy in February 2001. The Strategy is underpinned by three pieces of legislation: the South African Qualifications Authority Act, the Skills Development Act and the Skills Development Levies Act. The Act introduces a framework to determine and implement national, sector and workplace skills development strategies. The Development Act builds on the basis of the Qualifications Authority Act. The Skills Development Act requires that employers, employees and government departments working in a particular sector must register with a SETA. The National Skills Authority and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are two of the structures established by government to implement the Skills Development Act. In addition, professional organisations and bargaining councils may be part of a SETA if their members agree to it.

SETAs are organised according to sectors, and not industries, as was previously the case. Some of the main tasks of the SETAs include the following. Devising sector skills plans, which states who is employed in the sector and where. To disburse money from the National Skills Development Levy and to provide information to employment services about the particular sector. In terms of the Act, SETAs can implement their skills plans through establishing learnerships, allocating grants to employers and employees and also monitoring education and training in the sector.

Discussion
Mr Clelland Stokes (DP) raised a number of questions. What was the percentage of employees claimed to have been trained by employers? What are the challenges facing domestic workers? When SETA has to administer 50%, does it still use the full percentage for its administration?

Regarding domestic workers, Ms Bird referred to the Skills Development Act, in terms of which it is compulsory for certain employers to contribute a payroll levy. However, the vast majority of workers were not included. The rest of the funding for this project therefore comes from the National Skills Fund. The government pays money into this Fund which it takes directly from taxes. Thus far R 100 million has been allocated. The Committee hopes to launch DW project and Sectoral Management Budget.

She noted that the level of administration and penetration have no correlation. The reason for this is that administration is a proxy; in actual fact ten percent of the engine for change cannot be correlated.

Mr Mfundisi (UCDP) addressed the issue of unemployment and asked how the Committee could obtain a provincial record of involvement in unemployment evaluation. How does this affect students in matric going to University? How soon can the Department be ready to report back on progress that has been highlighted? What was their involvement in the WSSD?

A member of the Department team explained that a key source for information is a form to be submitted to SARS. However, since these forms are hardly ever submitted,
there is an information gathering problem.

Ms Bird said that they could have a more detailed presentation on provincial work on unemployment in September. A more detailed report will be published on 26//27/28 of September.

A Department representative dealt with the details of provinces and said that at this stage they have aggregated figures on what each province is doing. A list of the projects they have supported shall be submitted to the Committee.

Adv Madasa (ACDP) asked for details on the training board: what is their scope and what are their assets etc which allows them to operate effectively?

He noted that many companies were not responding to the Skills Development Act and wanted to know : what are the mechanisms used to ensure that they comply with the Act. What negative publicity were they receiving? Does SETA represent the demographics of the country? Do SETAs consist of the old or new guard?

A Member asked why there is so little involvement for people with disabilities. Are we doing enough to involve provincial and local municipalities? Are we using the constituency offices enough?

Ms Bird gave a general response. She noted that the previous Industry Training Boards, which have been replaced by SETAs, did not cover the entire spectrum of industries/firms. In terms of Skills Development Act, Industries Training Boards have mostly abandoned ownership arrangements. It has been a protracted process, and they still attend to some of these transfer arrangements.

She outlined some of the ways in which they enforce compliance by companies. There are two aspects viz, compliance with payment: SARS is responsible for collecting the levy and enforcing the collection. They see this as one aspect of broadening the Skills Development Act. The problem of firms not paying is to be dealt with by SARS. The second aspect is forcing compliance to claim grant. They make use of an incentive model: everyone is obliged to pay the levy and grants go to people who pay.

Ms Bird said that a great deal of positive work has been done. They will also work harder to speak out about the positive benefits.

In terms of the demographics of SETA, statistically they have not reached national targets.

With respect to fraud, the truth was that it is not rife. The majority are working perfectly. The Scorpions deal with any suspicion of mismanagement and do employ extreme measures.

Mr Raja Naidoo (Department) said negative publicity is a dedicated section in their marketing programme. But there is more positive than negative publicity and newspapers can be scanned on a weekly basis. He added that Members will be given a copy of the newspaper clippings.

A Department representative responded to an earlier question on disabilities, noting that the challenge is to provide more guidelines. For instance, one could use discretionary grants, but there could be better grants if disabled people are employed. He noted that NEDLAC had given a great deal of input on the figures which show the exclusion of bursaries for people with disabilities.

Another Department representative said that Municipalities and in general local government is a key driver who is responsible for implementation.

Ms Bird concluded that, with respect to the relevant legislation, certain technical amendments were under consideration.

The meeting was adjourned.

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