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Focus on IT skills upgrade for women and children

Published Aug 19, 2002

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Johannesburg - Training in the information systems, electronics and telecommunications technologies (Isett) sector must focus on developing the skills of women and children, Andile Ngcaba, the director-general of the department of communications, said on Friday.

Ngcaba was addressing stakeholders at the relaunch of the Isett sector education training authority (Seta).

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The Isett Seta is one of 25 such authorities launched in March 2000 to address the skills shortage across all sectors of the country's economy.

However, the Setas have been widely criticised by stakeholders for failing to make a visible and meaningful intervention to address skills shortages.

A failure to disburse funds designated for education and training, resulting in the accumulation of unclaimed grants, is cited as evidence of the tardiness of some authorities, including the Isett Seta.

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Setas get their funding from levy contributions paid by employers into the National Revenue Fund.

Each employer is levied 1 percent of the company's total payroll, but may recoup as much as 65 percent after submitting a work-based skills training plan, with the balance channelled into the operations of the Setas.

The total budget for all the Setas is estimated to be equal to the size of the national budget for technical colleges and technikons combined.

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Thabo Mpama, the chairman of the Isett Seta's board, said the problems the organisation had experienced, which included a conflict between the board and the management over corporate governance issues, had been overcome.

"We want to be seen as a service and customer-orientated organisation," Mpama said, adding that about 72 percent of the country's working adults are not equipped to effectively participate in an information society.

Mateli Mpuntsha, the Isett Seta's chief executive, said the organisation had turned the corner and was well positioned to deliver.

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It has secured R33 million for the 2002/03 financial year, including discretionary funding earmarked for 10 000 beneficiaries through 27 identified projects, including maths and science, computer literacy, rural telecoms training and small business development.

"We have a commitment of about R107 million to turn around those programmes into learnerships over the next three years, starting in November," Mpuntsha said.

In another development, Ngcaba said the Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development aimed to finish its report on the country's strategy for creating an information society within the next two years.

Members of this commission include heads of companies such as Telkom, Vodacom, Eskom, arivia.kom and Dimension Data.

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