Wednesday 28 October 2015

Proposed New Skills Development Landscape

The Department of Higher Education & Training (DHET) published on 10 November 2015 a draft proposal for a new National Skills Development landscape which would take effect on 1 March 2018.

The proposal is a government gazette with a deadline of 20 January 2016 for public comments.

With National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) III finishing its five year life-span in 2016 (now extended to March 2018), it was expected that a fine-tuning of the key skills development institutions would take place to support the new NSDS. The proposed new landscape is however a significant evolution in the institutional landscape and one which therefore requires significant consideration and discussion among stakeholders.

The title of the DHET document is "Proposal for the New National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) and Sector Education & Training Authorities (SETAs) Landscape (NSLP 2015)".

Please use the hashtag #NSDSIV to tweet on this topic (other more specific hashtags are in use).

What changes are proposed? 

Summarised below are the primary changes envisaged in NSLP 2015.  Refer to the 46 page source document for detail.

Changes to SETAs 

  • SETAs would be absorbed into the Department of Higher Education & Training but constituted as Specialised Delivery Units (Section 7B of the Public Service Act)
  • They would become permanent structures, rather than have 5 year renewable life-spans
  • They would remain 21 in number (no immediate mergers but clustered into five synergistic groupings)
  • SETA Boards would remain unchanged but have greater representation from government departments in line with a stronger public sector focus 

Changes to Funding

  • 80% of the current SETA Discretionary Grant would be shifted to the National Skills Fund (equivalent to the entire current PIVOTAL Grant)
  • Employers would still be able to apply for a 20% Mandatory Grant (unchanged) and a 20% Discretionary Grant (renamed Sector Specific Grant)
  • SETA administration costs would remain at 10% of the Skills Development Levy, but likely reduced over time as a shared services unit realises bulk savings, and as other bodies take up previous SETA functions, such as Skills Planning 
  • Public sector organisations would spend 1% of their personnel budget on quality assured education and training leading to NQF qualifications and fulfill the same reporting obligations as the private sector so as to qualify for funding from the National Skills Fund

Changes to the NSDS

These changes relate to the development of the National Skills Development Strategy IV, the fourth successive five year skills strategy, which will now run from March 2018 - March 2023.
  • The unit of analysis for the NSDS would be that of the occupation, as used in the Organising Framework for Occupations
  • There would be an emphasis on building the capacity of providers and the relevance of their programmes to occupational learning 
  • NSDS IV would be drafted by DHET, informed by consultation with bodies including the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), and finalised by the Minister of Higher Education and Training
  • NSDS IV would act as a guide for the allocation of all funding in the post-school sector (both Skills Development Levy funding and funding from the fiscus, or voted funds) via a Ministerial Statement

Other changes

  • The National Skills Fund would directly fund the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO), currently the QCTO is funded separately by contributions from each SETA
  • The National Skills Authority would perform a monitoring and evaluation function of the SETABs and be responsible for the skills development of SETA employees
  • The DHET would be responsible for a central skills planning unit which would inform all of the post-school sector institutions

Why are these changes proposed? 

The overarching reason for these changes is the White Paper for Post-school Education and Training, published by DHET in January 2014, setting out a vision for the post-school sector till 2030. A blog post on the Paper is available on this site, and includes links to the source document.

Other reasons for the proposed changes include:
  • Better co-ordination of skills funding through a central mechanism which can optimise spending and impact
  • Alignment with research and evaluation of the SETA system which proposed a more focused mandate for SETAs (moving quality assurance to the QCTO, and skills planning to the DHET) 
  • Recognition that many occupations are cross-sectoral and are not optimally served by the current sectoral focus of SETAs
  • Recognition that institutional learning (generally funded by the fiscus, or voted funds) and workplace learning (generally funded by the Skills Development Levy) are complimentary to occupational learning and therefore need to be funded in a complimentary manner and from a cross-sectoral perspective

The NSLP 2015 proposal document

 The document is gazetted as Government Gazette No. 39386. Download the 46 page document here (2 MB PDF).

Comments and suggestions 

It is essential for everyone involved in the skills development landscape to reflect on these proposals and provide input on improvements so that the final policy document can incorporate the broad collective experience of the sector.

Public comment is due by 20 January 2016 - extended to 29 February 2016 by Government Gazette 39592. Please email your comments to the DHET at

Enquiries can be directed to any of the following DHET officials:
  • Ms M. Erra on 012 312 5432
  • Ms V. Patuleni on 012 312 5295
  • Mr N. Radzilani on 012 312 6088
The SA Board for People Practice is also coordinating a submission which you can give input to by emailing Naren Vassan (LQA Manager) with the subject of the email beginning "Comments to Proposed SETA Landscape".


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