Who is Mike Stuart?

I didn't intend on becoming an editor of anything, let alone a skills handbook. Like many people, I ended up in my role by following what I enjoyed doing, through uncertain routes and with the intervention of many appreciated synchronicities.

I studied English and Applied Linguistics at Wits and UKZN and my first job was teaching English as a Second Language at NBS Bank at Kingsmead in Durban.

From being an ABET instructor in the late 1990's, when ABET was just becoming widely adopted and mainstream, I joined a team of friends from Wits to head up the English language teaching side of Rainbow Basic Communications, which was focusing on teaching basic Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa.

This was in the same year the Skills Development Act (1998) was enacted.

During a quite period over the December holidays we set about creating a training directory to meet some basic income needs and to answer the frequent questions we received from HR managers who used our training: "Where can we find someone who trains XYZ?"

This was the year 2000 when the SETAs were being launched and so we added some information up-front about the SETAs, the Skills Development Levy and the Employment Equity Act (1998) which was also starting to generate a lot of questions and requests for help.

We did not ever go back to training after that December vacation. The need for information and support around skills development was intense and we had a skill at simplifying the complex legislation and also at networking the training industry to meet the growing need for it.

Instead we published The National Training Directory  in the year 2000 and continued to publish it until 2010 under different names including the Skills Development Guide and The National Skills Development Handbook, pictured below.

During this period, Craig Macaskill  was working on the same publication, but with his love for agriculture began to research agricultural training, and ended up developing an entirely new publication -  The National Agricultural Directory and its Afrikaans sister, Die Nasionale Landbougids.

In 2012 I setup my own company to publish the Skills Handbook and Craig Macaskill's The Agri Handbook, which you can link to at the top of this site.

I have had the unique experience of watching and supporting the growth of skills development in South Africa since the year 2000. The bird's eye view I have had of this special sector has enabled me to see things which many people at "the coal-face" of workplace learning may have missed. I try to bring this "big picture overview" to the Skills Handbook to help practitioners avoid the trap of getting stuck in the detail and missing the point of what the spirit of South Africa is trying to achieve through its skills development strategy.

Looking back on the last 14 years of skills development in South Africa, I feel that we have gone through a collective, national journey of trying to understand skills development itself. This has been a typical "learning curve" complete with mistakes, failures, frustrations - and success. In 2014 we have reached a place where:
  • on the one hand, the political will and financial budget to deliver skills development on a massive scale, and 
  • on the other hand, we have a mature methodology for designing and delivering effective workplace learning which is arguably the most advanced of its kind in the world (certainly in terms of national systems)*(1)
So this could be a very significant time when South Africa breaks through old paradigms and forges new solutions to unemployment and poverty that have not been seen yet. My hope and expectation is that the Skills Handbook will help us move in that direction.

*(1) I am referring here to the curriculum design methodology of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations

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