Remove bottlenecks in skill pipeline: Nzimande

2010-11-02 11:34

Artificial bottlenecks in the skills development pipeline need to be removed and equity and access for all achieved, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said today.

Briefing the media on his delivery and performance agreements with President Jacob Zuma, Nzimande said skills development should be prioritised to achieve high levels of growth and development.

“Working with my colleagues in government, ministers of science and technology, public enterprises, economic development, trade and industry and others, we are committed to improving the skills level of our citizens.”

Five key outputs had been identified:
» Establishing a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning, which included providing information on demand and supply for skills, as well as career guidance;

» Increasing access to programmes leading to intermediate and high-level learning, including training more people, as millions did not have enough schooling to be able to access mid- and high-level skills;

» Increasing access to occupationally-directed programmes, thereby expanding availability of intermediate-level skills, with a special focus on artisan and other mid-level skills;

» Increasing access to high-level occupationally-directed programmes such as engineers, health professionals, natural and physical sciences, as well as increasing graduate output of teachers; and

» Research, development and innovation for a growing knowledge economy, with a particular focus on post-graduate degrees, deepening industry and university partnerships, as well as increasing investment in research and innovation, especially in science, engineering and technology.

Nzimande said the challenges were huge. Many pupils were ill-prepared to undertake further learning when they left school and could not access post-school education and training.

They were neither well prepared to enter the labour market or be economically active, and were often not aware of the options available to them.

About three million young people were not in education, employment or training. Almost two million of these had not completed senior secondary education.

About 600?000 had a senior secondary education or equivalent. This was a waste of resource and a social risk for the country.

“We therefore have to act and assist these young people and equip them with skills for social and economic independence,” Nzimande said.

Interventions to rectify skills shortages would require time to implement and take even longer to have an effect.

Therefore, ways had to be found to address these problems sooner, but also in a more sustainable manner.

The proposed new growth path suggested a radical review of the training system to address shortfalls in artisanal and technical skills and ensure effective, mass workplace training.

On the three delivery agreements, Nzimande said the first was for a credible skills planning mechanism including career guidance, signed with 11 government departments.

The work on building a comprehensive career guidance system was near finalisation by the South African Qualifications Authority.

The main objective of agreement two was raising the levels of education and focusing on the production of mid-level skills.

The department had initiated a process of bringing back and supporting the National Technical Education programmes – or “N” courses – offered in most of the further education and training colleges.

The N courses had historically formed an integral part of the apprenticeship system, but had, since the 1980s, become largely stand-alone courses without a clear purpose.

Past experience showed these were of no value if they were not complemented by workplace experience.

“We will also soon be establishing the National Artisan Moderating Body which will act to ensure that the quality of artisan programmes we offer are of high quality, as well as improving the pass rates in the artisan trade tests.”

In agreement three, the department had entered into a partnership, especially with the science and technology department, to ensure numbers of graduates and post-graduates were increased.

Some of the activities already undertaken included reviewing the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to improve access by poor, but academically deserving students into universities, and improving access into scarce skills, he said.

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