Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Event - National Skills Authority Roundtable on the New Skills Development Landscape

The National Skills Authority (NSA) has been tasked with advising the Minister of Higher Education & Training on the proposed new skills development landscape, which comes into effect from March 2018.

To advise the Minister on how stakeholders feel about the proposals, the NSA has been conducting nation-wide public hearings to provide information on the proposals, encourage discussion around the impact of the changes and gather feedback for the Minister.

Yesterday's roundtable at the Midrand Conference Centre in Johannsburg was aimed at a wide variety of organisations which play important roles in the post-schooling sector. The NSA provided feedback on the public hearings and gave the organisations an opportunity to share their views on the proposals, and answer questions from the audience.

You can download the event presentations later in this post.


The SABPP and the New Skills Development Landscape


I attended the roundtable representing the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP) along with our CEO, Marius Meyer, and our Learning & Quality Assurance Manager, Naren Vassan.

The SABPP is a key role-player in the post-school sector because its members are the human resource and learning & development (L&D) managers responsible for on-boarding university, college and other graduates into the workplace, and for providing workplace learning.

The SABPP made a submission to the Minister on the new proposals, which you can download here, or view below. More information on the NSLP proposals is available on an earlier blog post here, including a link to download the proposal document. DHET referes to the proposals by the acronymn "NSLP" - National Skills Development Strategy & SETA Landscape Proposal 2015.



The event programme


The full event programme is embedded below.

Almost every key stakeholder in the skills development landscape was well represented in the programme, with the exception of professional bodies (there is a Professional Body Forum which represents this sector). However on behalf of SAQA, Professor Shirley Walters emphasised this point during her presentation.
Labour was only represented by Cosatu which elicited an objection from Eddie De Klerk, the Fedusa education and training representative, who was in the audience.

It was great seeing the Department of Basic Education represented, as a holistic solution to South Africa's human development challenges needs to tackle the full life-cycle of education and training.


The presentations


The NSA has made some of the presentations available already and the rest will be added to the folder below as soon as they are made available.



I tweeted the highlights of the event on the hashtag #NSARoundtable.



Some highlights


It was sad to hear Joyce Mashabela (representing the QCTO and the CHE) still begging for funding for the QCTO (which since its inception has not been properly funded) but her appeal for stability, consistency and an end to continual changes in the sector is likely to be a sentiment felt by everyone. The people staffing our SETAs and the QCTO operate under a continual threat of termination (SETAs are established for 5 year periods, and the QCTO can only budget in two year time-spans at the moment). This is not a great environment to get the best performance out of people but fortunately the proposals for the new Skills Development Landscape contain some solutions for both SETAs and the QCTO.

On this point, the SABPP submission to DHET suggested that 10% of the total Skills Development Levy be allocated to the administration of the QCTO, the NSA, the HRDC and the NSDA.

Silo-busting and integration are key themes for any organisation seeking to positively impact their environment in our increasingly complex world. So it was great to hear Ms Lewin from the DHET mention that we have a Task Team on Cross-cutting Issues and Integration working on the implementation plan for the White Paper on PSET. It was also refreshing to hear the acknowledgement, "we have more questions than answers at the moment" from Ms Lewin because the task of implementing the White Paper is formidable and requires humility. The DHET is aiming to have a draft implementation plan ready by early 2017 which is a very ambitious target, but since the White Paper was published in January 2014 it needs to start implementation as soon as possible.

Several presenters criticised the NSLP 2015 as being too operational and not proceeding from a solid strategic starting point. While the document is very operational, it does point to the White Paper as being its strategic reference point, and does anchor several of its propositions in the objectives of the White Paper, so I don't agree with this criticism. What would be helpful is if we had a Human Resource Development strategy which was cascaded down to a National Skills Development Strategy. Theoretically this is the case, but the strategies are often developed several years apart from each other and then retrospectively updated which does not make for continuity nor a clear transmission of the original intent of the apex strategies.

It was good to hear several stakeholders insisting on a demand-driven approach to the new landscape (rather than a supply-led approach), as this has been a weakness in the South African education and training landscape for a long time now.

The strongest opposition to the DHET's proposals came from Dr Moloko, representing Chairpersons of SETA boards, and Chair of the SETA CEO association, Ms Nxesi.

Three presenters called for the country to leverage disruptive technologies to overcome the increasing costs of access to education, something the SABPP welcomes and dedicated a section of its submission to DHET to (see pages 6 - 7).

Conclusion


I will continue to follow developments around the new Skills Development Landscape on this blog, including an initiative I am supporting to host a series of national debates, preceded and followed by research papers, which will hopefully raise the tempo and quality of the national conversation on this important topic.

Given the significant scope of changes the country is currently considering with regard to this sector, we have not yet been able to published the next edition of the Skills Handbook. I apologise to readers, advertisers and sponsors for this delay. Had we published any earlier, the book would be considered irrelevant now.