Department of Labour on the Seta System: briefing

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SELECT COMMITTEE ON LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISE

SELECT COMMITTEE ON LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISE
22 August 2006
DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR ON THE SETA SYSTEM: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Ms M P Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga)

Documents handed out:
Presentation on the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) System by Dr Prinsloo

SUMMARY
The Department of Labour briefed the Committee on the progress and challenges facing the SETA system.  The Committee raised questions around the specific programs targeted at providing skills especially around Adult Basic Education and Training, suggesting that it was possible that the Department needed to review its strategy on those programmes. Members requested the Department to provide a provincial breakdown of how province-based SETAs were performing. This would assist the Committee to monitor whether or not provinces are adhering to the national system. The Department agreed with the Committee that it was impossible to use a universal approach to monitor and evaluate performance of SETAs in provinces as challenges varied according to province and population thereof.

MINUTES
Dr Prinsloo, Executive Manager: SETA performance management, briefed the Committee on the progress and challenges facing SETAs, highlighting the success factors as well as major hiccups in the SETA system. One of the hiccups according to the Department of Labour was the inconsistency within the quality controlling boards such as UMALUSI and Higher Education and Quality Committee, which then delayed SETAs’ progress in monitoring and the evaluation of the quality of skills provided. On a broader scale, SETAs had performed very well especially with the establishment of a Provincial Skills Forum encompassing members of the public, the business sector as well as departmental representatives. The forum allowed provinces to speak about challenges experienced at grassroots level. South Africa experienced a backlog as a result of the mismatch of the skills provided and those that were in demand in the country. To remedy the situation, professionals who had retired in the field of engineering would assist in sharing their scarce skills in communities. The Department of Labour hoped to target skill-hungry sectors such as agriculture to ensure that SETAs sustained their work. Dr Prinsloo acknowledged that SETAs found themselves with a lot of work, as had been expected by the Department of Labour. With that taken in to consideration, the system proved to be working well.

Discussion
Mr J Sibiya (ANC, Limpopo) asked if the National Skills Fund took into consideration the different statistics of unemployed people in various provinces.

Dr Prinsloo concurred that he appreciated the questions, as they would help him in determining which SETAs still required improvement. He answered that the National Skills Fund set itself targets, but worked closely under the auspices of the National Skills Development Fund which advised the Minister, while it also relied on the information gathered by communities as well as other stakeholders. He added that provincial representatives guided disbursement of funds, as they possessed the relevant information about provinces and challenges thereof.

Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC, Western Cape) commended the Department for an informative presentation. She was happy that they had also outlined weaknesses. She proposed to the chairperson that the Committee visit one of the Further Education and Training (FET) centres in George. This would help the Committee to understand the position of SETAs in general. She was concerned that it was possible that the Department needed to review its strategy in administering the ABET. Was language not a barrier towards training and education thereof? Did the Department look into that possibility?

Dr Prinsloo agreed with the notion that language was often a barrier towards learning specifically with Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET). He added that there were however pockets of excellence with ABET. He welcomed the proposition to visit an FET in George. There were means to review the current SETA system. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was contracted by the Department to assist in monitoring the money invested in learnerships and the entire SETA system.

Ms Ntwanambi asked what action had been taken against educators who did not add much value and quality to their work, but still expected money at the end of the day. She questioned the involvement of municipalities and local authorities in implementing principles of the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa).

Dr Prinsloo said that the involvement of HSRC would also assist in monitoring the level of quality invested by educators. There were improvements with municipalities even though shortages of technical skills such as engineers and technicians continued to be a challenge. He hoped that both ASGISA and JIPSA would assist in infiltrating the skills within municipalities. Another mechanism would be to utilise the skills of retired professionals with scarce skills to contribute in communities. The Department made some linkages to the programs of JIPSA.

Ms J Terblanche (DA, North West) asked the Department to provide a provincial breakdown of SETAs. She asked if it was proper to suggest that SETAs were moving too fast. Was that not the pace expected from them?

Dr Prinsloo replied that in the next meeting, SETAs would be able to provide a statistical breakdown of the progress made by Provincial SETAs. The intention of the Department was not to encourage a standard model for provinces as they varied in their operation and differed in their challenges. In suggesting that SETAs were moving too fast, he was aware that once that pace accelerated, a lot of SETAs would run out of funds available. The Department would not be in a position to bail out SETAs, as it lacked the funds for such an activity.

Ms Chen (ANC, Gauteng) commented that there was progress in the manner in which SETAs were performing. She asked what kind of training was put up for businesses. She added that the Department had to work on changing a lot of mindsets around SETAS. She was concerned that a lot of white South African students did not feel that SETAs were applicable to them. Was nationality an issue when people were placed on learnership programs?

Dr Prinsloo responded that the quality of training remained a major setback and one of reasons was inconsistencies within the sectors with quality training. He referred to institutions such as UMALUSI, Higher Education and Quality Committee (HEQC) and other quality institutions. He was not aware of any reports of institutions specifying on certain race and nationality specifications. There was a necessity to measure and monitor provisions of the employment equity act as well as the skills development equity requisitions.

Ms Motloayela (ANC) asked if it was not possible to incorporate driving skills into the curriculum in schools. She was convinced that that would be a useful way to equip learners with driving skills, which had become a demand when looking for jobs.

Dr Prinsloo echoed that the proposal was very interesting, but would not respond directly. SETAs would be given an opportunity to respond at the next meeting. There had been ongoing engagements with the Department of Education to incorporate driving skills into the curriculum.

Mr D Gamede (ANC, KZN) commented that the economy of the country was growing, approaching the targeted six percent, while levels of unemployment also escalated. How would the SETA system remedy the situation? He questioned if SETAs refined their strategy to focus on 2010. He concurred that the required skills needed to be nurtured earlier before the World Cup. Mr Gamede wanted clarity on how the Department monitored the use of money by SETAs.

Dr Prinsloo concurred that not even the National Treasury could figure out the unemployment trend as opposed to the economic growth. He was however convinced that one of the attributes to the problem were the skills mismatch, whereby the skills possessed by people did not match the required needs. The Department hoped to focus more on the “skill hungry” sectors such as the Agricultural sector. Responding to the 2010 preparations, he echoed that ASGISA was targeted at meeting that challenge. The Department of Labour was negotiating targets to see if they were in line with the 2010 world cup preparations.

Mr Hendricks asked why the Country’s army resources were not used to provide some of the skills and apprentice required in South Africa. He proposed a buy-in from business where an arranged contract would be secured with the Department of Labour to place learners for better training. He felt that would break the cycle of crime in communities. Mr Hendricks did not agree that there were untrainable people, but food was often a barrier towards training and learning. If you intended on training people, incorporating food in the program would produce better results.

Dr Prinsloo said that the Department of Labour had developed a sophisticated mechanism that looked at occupation and specification of skills. He agreed that there was a need to utilise the resources that were currently not being utilised to provide skills and training. He could not agree more on the question of crime, concurring that he would speak with the Chief Executive Officer of the Safety and Security SETA to respond further on the question of crime and what could be done about it.

The Chairperson asked whether or not all provinces had the Provincial Skills Forum.

Dr Prinsloo promised to furnish the Committee with the relevant information on Provincial Forums at a later stage. He confirmed that there was involvement across provinces.

Mr Hendricks posed a follow up resting the advertisement of SETAs at high school level.

Dr Prinsloo responded that initially, SETAs were designed for the business sector. Information however could be channelled via the schooling system through career counselling services. Learners would be better informed on the career choices they made.

The chairperson thanked the Department of Labour, and specifically Dr Prinsloo, for appearing before the Committee. She confirmed that the next meeting involving SETAs would be held on the 5th of September 2006.

The meeting was adjourned.
 



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