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Skills shortages continue to be one of the major constraints to economic growth and transformation of our economy and labour market.
Mvuyisi Macikama, chief director of the National Skills Fund, was speaking on behalf of the Department of Higher Education and Training at the 4th annual BHP Billiton Skills Development Summit in Pretoria last week. He said the government needed to drive the production of skilled human resources more aggressively.
“This is essential to ensure that we create a skilled and capable workforce that contributes to economic growth as well as social stability and equity,” he says.
“The serious constraints faced by local communities in engaging with opportunities for socio-economic upliftment is clearly a cause for concern. It’s suggested that a careful re-evaluation of SA’s development paradigm is done urgently.
“The challenges we face are enormous. The adoption of the New Growth Path by the government and the focus on creating jobs is largely a recognition that poverty, inequality and social inequities stem from the exclusion of the majority from the labour market.
“Higher employment and economic participation would help make progress in reducing poverty and income inequality. But we cannot achieve high employment if we do not address the skills challenges.”
Macikama points to latest statistics that reveal that the youth employment ratio for 15- to 24-year-olds in SA is just 12.5 percent. “This means that only one in eight young people have a job – they are neither in school nor in employment.
“Each week roughly 60 000 jobs are advertised across the country. Many of these adverts are repeated weekly simply because there is a lack of skilled workers to fill these positions.”
Macikama says the Department of Higher Education and Training was determined to remove blockages to scarce skills supply.
“We are improving the skills production pipeline in intermediate and high level skills, as well as improving access and articulation in a diverse system of universities, further education and training (FET) colleges, workplace skills development and community skills development centres.
“We are also creating a broader system of options at the disposal of our out-of-school youth.”
He said quality and timely skills development were best achieved through strong partnership between government, business, labour and the sector education and training authorities.
“The overarching public perception of FET colleges is largely negative, seeing these institutions as inferior and best suited for those students who have dropped out as well as those who do not qualify to enter higher education institutions.”
He added that one of the goals of the National Skills Development Strategy was to promote the growth of a public FET college system that was responsive to sector, local, regional and national skills needs and priorities.
“The public FET college system is central to the government’s programme of skilling and re-skilling the youth and adults. The sector is expected to play a meaningful role in the development of scarce skills and significant progress has been made to overhaul the sector.”
Macikama said there was a collective responsibility by all stakeholders to ensure the strengthening and growth of the country’s post-school education and training system, “in line with the expectations of millions of South Africans who required training of one form or the other, especially our youth, so that we will create a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path for our country”.