We need not be despondent

2016-05-30 06:08

The Statistician-General, Dr Pali Lehohla released the results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survery (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2016 on 9 May 2016. The figures reflect a South Africa with a current unemployment rate which increased to 26.7 percent in the three months quarter and above market expectations of 25.3 percent.

This must be the highest reading since September 2005, as the number of the unemployed rose by 10 percent whereas employment fell 2.2 percent. The narrative is that unemployment rate in South Africa averaged 25.29 percent from 2000 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 31.20 percent in the first quarter of 2003 and a record low of 21.50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The unemployment rate in our country, South Africa, measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force.

No doubt, the prevalence of youth unemployment and underemployment is partly a consequence of inadequate job opportunities within the labour market. Lack of skills and work experience are some of the contributors to the current rise of the unemployment rate in South Africa.

It is important to note that in the last decade South Africa invested quiet a lot in skills development, however, the country still suffers from a shortage in the supply of skills and the exclusion of millions of youth that are not in employment, education and economic activities.

In the first quarter of 2014, Statistics South Africa released a report on the National and Provincial Labour Market on youth which confirmed a whopping 36.1 percent youth unemployment rate.

Nonetheless, there continues to be a lot of work and energy spent into making sure that these challenges are addressed. We are a government at work.

The ministry of Higher Education and Training has committed in its delivery agreement with President Jacob Zuma to realise the delivery outcomes of Government, as highlighted in Output 5 to strive for a credible institutional mechanism for labour market and skills planning.

The South African government has agreed on 12 outcomes as key focus areas of work with each outcome having a limited number of measurable outputs with indicators and targets.

The latter outcome the ministry of Higher Education and Training has entered into an agreement with the President provides the basis for integrated forecasting and planning in addressing the skills pipeline as a whole within the context of a long, medium and short-term set of imperatives.

The recent adjustments of the size and pattern of the public education and training landscape, at different levels of post-schooling system, in line with policy prescripts of the 2013 White Paper for Post-School Education and Training is aimed at ensuring alignment of education and training provision with the country’s socio-economic needs. This achievement is seen as part of the building blocks in the realisation of the Government’s delivery outcomes.

The 2013 White Paper document on Post-School Education and Training sets out strategies to improve the capacity of the post-school education and training system to meet South Africa’s needs. The document outlines policy directions to guide the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the institutions for which it is responsible in order to contribute to building a developmental state with a vibrant democracy and a flourishing economy.

The DHET has seen the establishment of nine Community Education and Training (CET) Colleges, one in each province. This new institutional type complements the 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges and the University sector. Three new universities have also been established over the past two years to ensure a complement of 26 universities spread across all nine provinces. Alongside these institutions, the 21 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) are responsible for addressing sectoral economic skills need and supporting education and training initiatives and programmes aimed at responding to these needs.

In order to ensure improved access to SETA services, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande instructed SETAs to open offices in all 50 TVET Colleges in those located in rural and township areas. To date, 43 offices have been launched.

There is also the Decade of Artisan advocacy programme which continues to be highly effective in raising awareness among young people regarding artisans. The programme also focuses on employers opening up workplaces for more artisan learners, particularly apprenticeships. This programme reached full circle during the 2014/15 financial year, with the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mr Mduduzi Manana launching it in different provinces.

The Decade of Artisan advocacy affords the Deputy Minister a platform to engage and motivate learners to consider artisanship as a career of choice as well as to share information or critical scarce skills that will advance the economy of the country.

Fact is, the private sector is the biggest employer of artisans in the country, hence the Decade of Artisan campaign has employers as an integral stakeholder as well as the TVET Colleges as the training partner.

The National Development Plan indicates that by the year 2030 South Africa should be producing 30 000 qualified artisans per year. This target has been brought forward by the 2014 – 2026 Medium Term Strategic Framework to 31 March 2016.

The country is currently producing on average 15 000 qualified artisans per year. This means more work for the DHET and the industry partners to make sure that the number doubles in the next 11 years leading to 2026.

It goes without saying that TVET Colleges have to turn the corner if all these challenges are to be defeated.

The latter is indeed a concern for Minister Nzimande and his department. This is why strengthening Colleges is one of the DHET’s main key priorities. This, the DHET is addressing by amongst other interventions, improving Colleges, Management and Governance, developing the quality of teaching and learning, increasing the Colleges’ responsiveness to local labour markets, improving student support services and developing their infrastructure. These interventions will go a long way in addressing all the challenges we are having in our post-school education and training system, particularly in the TVET Colleges sector.

While the Vision of the DHET is to have a South Africa in which we have a differentiated and fully inclusive post-school system that allows all South Africans to access and succeed in relevant post-school education and training, in order to fulfil the economic and social goals of participation in an inclusive economy and society, the Mission sums it up so well; to develop a capable, well-educated and skilled citizens that are able to compete in a sustainable diversified and knowledge intensive international economy which meets the development goals of our country.

The mission of the DHET also goes on to say the DHET will undertake this mission by reducing the skills bottlenecks, especially in priority and scarce skills areas; improving low participation rates in the post-school system, correcting distortions in the shape, size and distribution of access to post-school education and training, and improving the quality and efficiency in the system; its sub-system and its institutions.

These are not just words, but a statement which the DHET has committed itself to for as long as it exists.

The 2016 first quarter labour force survey results by Statistics South Africa are indeed not painting a good picture, but at the same time serves as a motivation not only to the DHET, but government, the private sector and the country as a whole to join forces and work together to address the challenges the country faces today.

It cannot and we must not allow and instil the culture of having to put all responsibility to government every time such announcements are made.

South Africa is all ours, we therefore all have a role to play to make it a better place and sustain the economy for the future generation.

These can only be done once we all realise the importance of coming together as government, private sector and all responsible industries to make South Africa work for all those who live in it.

Our future generations depend on us.

By William Somo

William Somo is a Communication and Media employee in the Department of Higher Education and Training.

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