DPSA on appointment of youth into learnership, internship and artisan programmes; NSG on unemployed graduates and internships undergoing Public Service orientation; with Minister and Deputy

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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration, 11 June 2020
Audio: DPSA on appointment of youth into learnership, internship and artisan programmes; NSG on unemployed graduates and internships undergoing Public Service orientation 

The Committee met with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), and the National School of Government, for their briefings on the appointment of youth into learnership, internship and artisan programmes, and on the unemployed graduates and internships undergoing public service orientation, respectively.

The Department submitted that it had learnership and internship programmes set in place for learners who wished to work in the public services sector, stating that the programmes had been designed to increase employability. They were aimed at the youth, starting with those who had a grade nine certificate, up to doctoral degree candidates. The Department was aiming at increasing the chances of retention so that more youth could get retained for permanent employment, having completed the programme. It had expanded its programmes to ensure that it was no longer specific to skills relating only to the public sector; there had been engagements with the private sector to also come on board and help in enabling talent.

The School submitted that it was expanding its internship programmes and ensuring that they were localised by training more individuals where to train the learners in turn. The School said that its major challenge with the expansion process was the lack of funding which often led to the budget being reprioritised.

The Members asked the Department as to whether it had any intended programme to absorb the interns, especially the youth with disabilities as they were the ones who had more difficulty finding employment. They also asked if any person was allowed to be trained by School, even if they were not from the public service sector.

Members asked how the Department was intending to acquire funding for its programmes, given the global financial crisis that was being observed. Many of the learners needed to be absorbed and put into incentivised programmes so as to ensure that they appeared attractive to employers of choice. They asked how many of those youth were getting absorbed.

The Members also asked as to what was being done to include more disabled persons on the programmes of both the Department and the School. How much representation are rural areas getting on the programmes as the youth in those areas needed the opportunities more?

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by the Chairperson

The Chairperson opened the meeting, welcoming Members of the Committee and the entities present. He reminded the Members that the Committee was responsible for holding government accountable and ensuring that it followed its constitutional mandate. He said, the Department of Public Service and Administration should work towards uplifting the youth and ensuring that they have the relevant skill required for attaining employability.

He announced the tragic death of Parliament Member, Ms Dorah Dlamini, and asked all meeting attendants to observe a moment of silence to honour her. He then gave reference to the words of the late Dr Nelson Mandela, stating that the “youth are the future of the country” and thus they should be supported and equipped to work for the growth of the country.

The Chairperson announced that the first item on the agenda was a presentation to be given by DPSA on the appointment of youth into learnership, internship and artisan programmes. He invited the Minister of DPSA, Mr S Mchunu to give open remarks and his observation before the presentation could be delivered.

Minister’s remarks

The Minister thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity and rendered greetings to the Members of the Committee and the Deputy Minister. He said that he had only one remark to make prior to the presentation.

The Department was very proud of the achievement of the son of the soil, Dr Nelson Mandela, and his leadership still inspired the working spirit of the Department. He indicated that the Director-General (DG), Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, would render the presentation on behalf of DPSA and that the school principal, Prof Mr Busanii Ngcaweni would present for the National School of Government.

He said that he still remembered the time the Department was carrying out were the injunctions; some of them were now not easily attainable as there had to be some risk adjustments made by the government, as the country was getting more and more exposed.

He said the Department stood committed to young people in terms of its responsibility towards supporting them, but emphasised that the Department had had to risk-adjust and remodel its working mechanism. He said the Department was observing risks based on limitations around its structures and was utilizing the principles that guide it, because it had recognised the need to improve the quality of service delivery within Public Service and Administration.

He handed over to the DG to deliver the DPSA presentation.

Briefing by the DPSA on appointment of youth into leadership, internship and artisan programmes

Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, DG of DPSA, opened by rendering greetings to the Committee and said that the DPSA would be presenting on matters relating to internship and learnership programmes that the Department had in place to assist the youth in acquiring skill necessary for the job market. This presentation was important given that the country was observing Youth Month and also due to celebrate Youth Day on June 16.

She highlighted DPSA’s legislative mandate and the key policies that guided the entity in its functions. She said the presentation would cover the purpose of directives and include all the relevant statistics that related to DPSA’s programmes.

She said the Department has refocused its youth programme on 01 April 2018, to ensure that it took into account factors that would enable more youth to apply and get enrolled for the internships and learnerships made available in the public sector. She said the Department was aiming at increasing the chances of retention so that more youth could get retained for permanent employment, having completed the programme. The Department had expanded its programme to ensure that it was no longer specific to skills relating only to the public sector; there had been engagements with the private sector to also come on board and help in enabling talent.

She stated that the presentation covered answers to a series of vital questions relating to the programme, one of the most important being the question on addressing a case were a learner fell pregnant and delivered, having to spend a couple of days caring for the child; she expounded on what support the programmes would offer to the learner in that situation.

She said that the current programme was aimed at also helping those students who had completed their theoretical work at an institution of higher learning and were seeking to gain work experience before they could register professionally in their respective fields. She said this had been added because the Department wanted to increase the prospects of young people getting employed.

She presented the definition of common words and phrases that were used in the programme and explained their meaning relative to the programme; defining words such as: internship, learner, artisan; phrases such as: ‘Graduate Internship Programme’, ‘apprenticeship programme’ and ‘Graduate Recruitment Scheme’, among others.

Ms Makhasi stated that the development programmes were being advertised in order for the youth to be aware of them and thus take advantage of them. The durations of the programmes varied but a standard one would take a period of at least 24 months, unless the learner took the decision to exit early – in which case they would be free to do so. She said the programme could be as long as 48 months, depending on the qualification. Speaking on leave days, she said that the learners were allocated 21 leave days whilst in the programme and that in the event that learners got sick, they could decide to stop the programme – with the option of restarting it when they feel better. She said that the programme also allowed for a 24-month maternity leave.

The Department was striving to keep the programme sustainable and would ensure that there were sufficient funds budgeted for and made available towards these youth programmes. The Department faced a challenge in as far as having the funds for reasonable accommodation, among other aspects.

She stated that the programmes were paid internships and learnerships, with the payment structure being determined according to levels qualifications. For example, a PhD graduate would be allocated to the payment level 10; degree graduate to payment level seven, while diploma graduates were on payment level six, etc.

She said that there was a need to speed up application processes because most departments had vacancies but it took a long time for them to be filled, emphasising that DPSA could do better in its responsibility to capacitate the vacancies by ensuring faster processing of applications. She said it was sometime the applicants who delayed the process by not providing all the necessary documentation.

She said the DPSA had to initiate a project focused on contacting the interns who had exited the programme successfully and finding out if they were getting employed. She said it was important for interns to complete surveys when they exit the programme to inform the DPSA as to how the programmes could be improved further.

She reported to the Committee that the Department was struggling with learner accommodation, emphasising some of the interns were not required to be in the office at all times and could work from home, but they needed the necessary tools for connecting with the office.

She said that the Department noted that it had targets that were not met and was working towards improving its achievement of targets in the new financial year; she emphasised that the idea was to turn public service into an employer of choice. 

She said that there were a number of cases, wherein interns were not getting the help they needed in their respective provinces and that the interns must know that when their matters were not getting resolved so they can escalate them to the Department.

She presented the Committee with the five-year outlook of the statistics which included demographics of gender, race and provincial representation, among others; she highlighted that the Department was happy to see that there were a lot of women represented in the statistics.

She highlighted some of the challenges that were being faced by the Department, including the fact that there was no clear budget for the programme, and this needed to be addressed with urgency. She said that DPSA needed to strengthen its advertisement of the programmes, more so in rural areas because the statistics showed that there was little representation there; she emphasised that it was the youth of the rural areas who needed the programmes. 

She stated that the pipeline for the programmes was at least two years long and the Department was working to ensure that, of those youth who were exiting the programme upon completion, at least two percent got retained in the system.

She stated that the programmes were no longer specific only to the public sector as the Department noted that government bursaries were aid only at certain skills that the government required young people to have. However, the new programmes allowed for a variety of skills to be acquired by the youth, from both the public and private sectors.

Ms Makhasi informed the Committee that she once received a bursary from the Public Service Commission and that was what made her value her job so much. Serving the interests of the youth was important to her and the Department carried the same spirit.  She said there were a lot of graduates that needed to be helped.

Speaking to the demographics in the statistics, she said that the race profile in the programmes appeared similar to that of the country, thus highlighting that there was an equal opportunity awarded to all of the country’s youth; she emphasised that, as per the race profile, Africans had the highest representation in the programmes and Whites had the lowest. She said that the Limpopo province had been among top performers in as far as provincial profiling was concerned.

Ms Makhasi said that there had been fluctuations in the annual intake per province as indicated by the data starting from 2014; she emphasised that most provinces reduced their number of internships because of the revenue problems that caused them to keep reprioritising their budget. The statistics showed a declining trend with respect to increasing years.

Speaking to the intake vs employment of candidates, she said that DPSA encouraged the employment of youth and had thus recruited over 179 000 young candidates to participate in its programme. She highlighted that DPSA could be undercounting the number of enrollments because some of candidates went through the internship programmes via the private sector, and stated that the numbers were still very low in terms of the inputs and outputs of the system. In concluding the presentation she said that young people needed to gain exposure and get employment and that this was why they were receiving training.

The Chairperson thanked the DG for the presentation, asking Members if they would like to engage with the presentation first or if they would like to have the presentation from the National School of Government

Ms C Motsepe (EFF) suggested that the Committee take both presentations and only engage with both of them at the end.

The Chairperson, having noted that all the Members agreed to receive both presentations, gave the opportunity to the principal of the National School of Government (NSG) to render the presentation.

Briefing by the NSG on unemployed graduates and internships undergoing Public Service Orientation

Prof. Busani Ngcaweni, Principal of NSG, thanked the Chairperson and the Committee at large for the opportunity to present; greeting the Minister, Deputy Minister and the Members. He said that he would give a summarised presentation because some of the issues spoken to in the presentation were already touched upon by the DG in the previous presentation.

He stated that the main programme from the NSG was the “Breaking Barriers to Employment” (BB2E) and was aimed at youth in TVETs and universities – who wished to serve in the public service sector.

He was inaudible for a few seconds due to his connection.

The Chairperson asked the NSG Principal if he was still on line because he was inaudible; he told him that he was breaking up and Members could not hear his presentation.

Prof Ngcaweni apologised to the Committee, stating that the connection was bad from his side and it was for this reason that NSG was looking into upgrading its network infrastructure to allow for more reliable connections – more so to enable ease of learning to the students.

He stated that NSG mobilised from the National Youth Development Programme (NYDP) and other associated programmes in order to recruit the suitable candidates for the programmes offered. He also explained that BB2E was about heading out to the communities and finding young people who wanted to be inducted on critical skills such as engineering and other critical skills required.

He said that there was a common problem with the candidate applications due to the applicants not being able to provide the required documentation in due time, hence slowing down the processes or sometimes leading to the specific candidate being rejected by the system.

He said that the NSG had partnerships to ensure that there was a big uptake of candidates, accounting for about 80% of the school’s budget. The school was lacking funds for expanding its programmes and had to look for alternative sources of funding; its funds from the EU were going to be terminated at the end of the financial year, and this would affect the intake of candidates who wanted to work in government. The school had partnerships to ensure that there is a big uptake for the program 80% of our budget.

He stated that the number of candidates participating in the programme had increased previously when the NSG first partnered with the EU on this regard; hence it was important to acquire funding from other sources in order to ensure that the uptake remained high. He said the school found it important to train more individuals who would act a trainers and mentors to the students, and this was being done to allow for the programme to be  replicated with reduced cost; this would also aid in localising the programme such that it became available to as many potential candidates as possible.

He emphasised that the NSG programme was open to young people in TVETs and universities - who wanted to join the public services sector; they were welcome to apply as the programme was structured to support them. He said the general feel was that young people were showing excitement about the programme and that the NSG had to unlock funding opportunities to ensure that the programme was expanded successfully.

Prof. Ngcaweni stated that the NSG had an induction programme which involved inducting graduates into how the public services sector worked and that this also included rendering advice on how to deal with matters such as sexual harassment cases that could potentially surface during the programme. He said the school took gender-based violence seriously and was looking to create a safe learning environment for all its students.

He said that the kind of graduates the NSG was producing were those who were going to bring change into the public services sector and that they were some very bright people who would not be exploited in any manner. He said that most of the received applications were from applicants who had post-matric qualifications and that some candidates had post graduate degrees from various fields.

On conclusion of the presentation, he stated that the NSG was going to change its structure because it wanted to double out its numbers, and that increasing impact would require accessing more resources.

The Chairperson thanked Prof. Ngcaweni and Ms Makhasi for their presentations, stating that both the presentations were now open for discussions; he asked Members to engage with the presentations and render their comments or suggestions and ask questions.

Discussion

Ms C Motsepe (EFF) noted that the employment of people with disabilities was presented to be below 2%. What is being done to cater for more disabled persons in the youth programs?

She said that rural areas were receiving enough representation in the programmes presented and emphasised that each province had its demographics, and each should hence be catered for according to its needs. She asked as to how many learners were now working and how many remained unemployed after the induction into the programmes. There were reported cases of some learners not receiving their stipends. Is there a mechanism in place to account for the monies paid to the learners? Is the data readily available, to show who had been paid and who had not? She asked the NSG to give its precise targets for the financial year.

Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) said that there was a need for DPSA to advertise on radio stations and hence reach more youth. This was important to increasing the uptake, especially in rural areas where more and more people were avid listeners of radio programs.

He pointed out that every post advertised by government departments required candidates to have some form of work experience; he asked what the DPSA was doing to get rid of the need for candidates to have experience when applying.

He said that all parents were eager for their children to go to universities and it was important to not forget the vitality of vocational education. He asked what the Department was doing to aid learners who would rather be trained vocationally.

He suggested that the DPSA should partner with the Department of Defense as there was a need to expose learners to maritime and other military-related studies. He asked as to whether DPSA was absorbing some candidates after they completed their respective programmes.

Mr S Malatsi (DA) stated that public services were lacking the ability to retain and integrate talent; he asked what the plans of the NSG were on the retention shortfall. He stated that the presentation of the NSG made use of the phrase ‘public service cadre’ when referring to the candidates, highlighting that the word ‘cadre’ had political connotation; he suggested that NSG should use ’public service professional’ instead.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) welcomed the presentations and stated that it was important to ensure that young people were being absorbed by the workspace. There should be a general focus on talent retention.

She said that government was one of the key role players and enablers for solving unemployment and the Department had to ensure that it always aligned its legislative mandate in line with governmental plans.

She asked DPSA as to whether it had any intended programme to absorb the interns, especially the youth with disabilities as they were the ones who had more difficulty finding employment. She also asked if any person was allowed to be trained by NSG, even if they were not from the public service sector.

She noted that the youth training programmes were decentralised and asked if the Department had any deliberate programme or portal that reflected statistics on the number of learners within the programmes.

Speaking to the NSG’s European Union (EU) funding, she asked if there were any positive reports on how the EU funds, which were being terminated at the end of the financial year, would be replaced. She also asked how young graduates were being made aware of the applications for the unsolicited programmes being offered.

Dr L Schreiber (DA) appreciated the fact that the learners exiting the said programmes would be able to join either the private or the public sector, as this would ensure that more jobs were made available to the candidates. He asked the Minister to give a progress update on the Wage Bill.

Ms M Clark (DA) asked as to how the Department was intending to acquire funding for its programmes, given the global financial crisis that was being observed. Many of the learners needed to be absorbed and put into incentivised programmes so as to ensure that they appeared attractive to employers of choice. She asked how many of those youth were getting absorbed.

Ms M Kibi (ANC) apologised, as she was not sure what questions had already been asked since she had temporarily lost her connection, pointing out that her questions may have been asked by other Members.

She expressed that she was impressed with the concept of ‘a trainer of trainers’ that was introduced by the NSG in order to allow for a rapid expansion of the programmes. She pointed out that some interns could have been doing very well during training but could not get absorbed after completing the programmes; she asked if there was a way of getting them employed when the opportunities arose within the public service sector.

Speaking on BB2E, she said that the evaluation report indicated that the programme did not achieve the targets it was designed to achieve in previous years; she asked what was being done to ensure that those targets were achieved in future financial years.

The Chairperson handed over to the DPSA and NSG to respond to the questions that had been asked by the Members.

Responses

DPSA

Ms Makhasi stated that the Minister had left the meeting momentarily and that she was unsure if he was ready to answer the questions. She would answer as many of the questions as she could in the meantime.

She stated that it was important to note that the role of the Department centered around policy development and therefore the Department was not geared by the law to undertake or address some of the work that society would like it to.

She noted that there was a need for DPSA to deal with the disjuncture in its programme demographics, highlighting that there was a great need to include more disabled people, but explained the Department was still lacking resources to deal with the disjuncture.

She said DPSA had limited the number of interns retained to only 21 and hence it was important for other interns who completed programme, to be aided with finding work outside DPSA.

Speaking to learners who were desperate because they had not received their stipends, she said that every time there was a budget cut, DPSA got told to reprioritise its budget in order to support other essential and often urgent functions in the Department. She said it was unfortunate that DSPA could not cut the budget for the salary of its employees and cuts were thus made on the programmes instead.

She explained that DPSA’s focus was on national and provincial government. Responding to the question on the existence of a mechanism for tracking payments made to learners, she said that a system known as ‘PAYSAL’ was in place and it had a permanent code that identified each learner and stated their payment history in detail. Once a learner was registered on the system, they keep their special code for life. No one got paid without the payment going through the PAYSAL system.

She said it was important for DPSA to partner with universities and TVETs in order to launch a series of community outreach programmes aimed at getting youth to know more about the said internship and learnership programmes. She highlighted that DPSA was not equipped to do the community outreaches without the help of the said partners. She added that DPSA did advertise on radio for the internships and learnership and that it needed to explore this mode of communication more, especially in rural areas. Advertising was a decentralised responsibility and every department handles it internally.

She said that the programmes were aimed at people who had a grade nine certificate and upwards and that the biggest issue was that DPSA needed to build an alignment of values between the public service and the interns, such that the interns were inducted on the values of the Department and it workings.

Speaking to employability, she said interns who finished the programme did not get jobs in some instances and the Department could not absorb them because it also had a limited number of posts; a job was not guaranteed at the end of the programmes and competition was encouraged among the youth.

She said DPSA needed to develop capabilities to monitor the payments of the learners who completed the programmes and hence a tracking mechanism was needed to enable young people to update their employment status. She said the dropping numbers in the uptake were due to the declining budget of the Department.

The Minister added that after the budget speech, the Department intensified its discussions with public service labour, giving the Finance Minster a guide to what needed to happen with DPSA’s finances and this had been taken to the House. 

He said DPSA organised a package that it was to present to the House as it wanted to do things in good faith, in a manner that would ensure stability in the country even after the three-year cycle had been completed. He stated that the labour said that DPSA should propose a package – which it did and labour rejected it. The matter had passed conciliation without any agreement and was now at arbitration; he added that DPSA had gone to court and was still waiting on the verdict. There were two labour unions cases in court and the others were in arbitration.

NSG

Prof. Ngcaweni responded that the NSG had reconfigured its structure to ensure that it worked more accurately and said that the school had programmes targeted and focused on youth development. The key idea was to ensure that the programmes were not coincidental; this had been highlighted in the slides.

He said that an enabler had been signed by the Minister to ensure that for entry-level posts, there was no prior experience required; he emphasised that ‘entry level’ was from level one to level seven.

Speaking to the work done to speed up application procedures, he said that applicants for jobs in government did not have to provide three month’s certified documents at the beginning of the application, but that they would be expected to submit those once they had been shortlisted; this was done to remove barriers to applications.

Answering on the use of the word ‘cadre’, he said this referred to someone who was trained and qualified, emphasising that it was an academic term and it remained used in a non-political fashion.

Answering the question about the availability of jobs for learners, he said that the situation was that there had to be competition between the young people such that no one was being guaranteed a job; this was being encouraged in order to promote fairness.

He indicated that the NSG was looking into expanding its ‘train a trainer’ programme in order to localise the programmes and reduce cost while allowing for more participants to enroll. He said that the NSG had a variety of qualified individuals who were capable of providing training to others.

Responding to the query on the termination of the EU funding, he said that the NSG was in discussions and negotiations on the extension of the funding.

He said that there had been a request from the provinces for the NSG to increase the number of interns it accommodated and the school had plans to expand on its programme intakes.

In conclusion he said that the conditions of service were regulated by DPSA and that there were audits on all the interns that were being paid, such that there was no way of fraudulent activity on the intern payments.

The Chairperson thanked the Members and the entities for their contributions to the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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