Issue No. 40
Skills Development Bill
31 July 1998
The Labour Ministry has tabled a major Bill that will give new impetus to quality training in South Africa. The Skills Development Bill aims to set in motion a skills revolution as the central part of South Africa’s drive for growth in employment and productivity.
The Remnants of Apartheid
Under Apartheid learning and working were regarded as separate processes. This is not true at all. One does not stop learning when one starts working. More and more workplaces strive to be learning organisations offering ongoing education and training. Their training programmes reflect their current business priorities and their changing environments and should enable them to keep up with, and move ahead of, competitors.
Large companies worldwide make large investments in research and development. Increasingly they form partnerships with universities and technikons. For too long South Africa was sheltered from this necessity because the Apartheid economy was built behind tariff barriers which made it expensive for other countries to sell their goods and services here. In turn, they made it difficult for us to sell our goods and services outside our borders. Nowadays South African companies are forced to spend more to stay competitive in the marketplace.
South Africa’s largest industrial companies continue to spend far less on employee training than their overseas counter-parts, according to a survey by Cape Town based Labour Research Services. Most of them spend only 2,5 per cent of their payroll on training. The international average is between 4 and 7 per cent.
South Africa has a poor skills record because of the poor quality of Apartheid education the majority of our people received, the irrelevance of much of the previous training funded by government and the low level of investments into training by companies. This greatly hampers growth in productivity, new investments and employment opportunities.
Introducing a New Era
The Skills Development Bill will:
- develop the skills of our workforce
- increase the quality of working life for workers
- improve the productivity of the workplace
- promote self-employment and the delivery of social services
- encourage firms to be active learning environments and provide experience to new workers
- improve the employment prospects of the previously disadvantaged through education and training.
Aligning the Bill with the South Africans Qualification Authority Act (SAQA)will:
- promote the quality of learning in and for the labour market
- give organised employers and workers greater responsibility for ensuring relevant training.
The objects of the Bill are to:
- establish a stronger institutional and financial framework then previously existed under the old Act
- replace the National Training Board with the National Skills Authority (NSA), a ministerial advisory body that will see to it that national skills development strategies, plans, priorities and targets are set and adhered to
- replace industry training boards with sector education and training authorities (SETAs) which will develop sector skills plans that conform to the national skills strategies and targets.
The Bill also introduces:
- a compulsory levy grant equal to 1 per cent of the payroll of all companies to be collected by SETAs and a national collection agency assigned by the Minister. Government is also bound by the Bill to pay 1 per cent of its personnel budget for skills development. Twenty per cent of the collected funds will be paid into a National Skills Fund (NSF). The rest will be paid as grants to firms that already carry out accredited training
- two learning programmes. The first is learnerships which incorporate traditional apprenticeships, and include structured learning and work experience that lead to qualifications in areas where skills are needed or opportunities exist in the labour market. This will assist young unemployed people to become employed and workers to improve their skills. The second are skills programmes that should also meet quality and relevance criteria to qualify for grants from the NSF or SETAs.
Skill Development Planning Unit
The Director-General must establish this Unit which is responsible for coordinating planning for skills development. It will do research and analyse the labour market to determine the skills development needs for the public and private sectors of the economy South Africa as a whole.
The Employment Services Unit will assist workers, employers and training providers and register work-seekers to enter special education programmes, find employment or start self-employment projects. It will also register vacancies and work opportunities. All such services must be registered through the DG.
Dealing with the New Challenges
- Measures introduced by the ANC-led Government through this Bill will create and encourage independence amongst the workforce. They do not perpetuate the culture of dependence nurtured by the previous regime.
- The SAQA will ensure that the quality of all learning in our country is greatly improved.
- The Bill will make it easier for people to move in and out of the learning system, and easier for them to be recognised for any learning acquired outside a formal institution.
- The National Qualification Framework will ensure that all learners learn both the content of their specific subjects and to become lifelong learners.
- The Skills Development Bill will ensure that the skills acquired include the ability to adapt to the ever changing learning and working demands of the marketplace.
The ANC Commitment
- The ANC insists that the emphasis of higher education and training must be shifted to equip people with the skills to do a job and the ability to adapt to lifelong learning. We must tell students that a matric or university degree does not mean that they must stop learning.
- Unlike the NP and the DP, the ANC believes that everyone in South Africa has a contribution to make. We all have a social responsibility to work towards a competitive economy that participates in the global economy from a position of strength.
- Instead of the reckless rhetoric of the opposition, we need people, from all sectors, to roll up their sleeves and get on with the hard work that will bring economic growth, employment and general upliftment to our people.
- This Bill is yet another brick in the ANC Government’s reconstruction and rebuilding campaign that will transform the South African workplace. It is a re-affirmation of the Government’s commitment to the eradication of unfair discrimination in the workplace, unemployment and poverty.
- The ANC, step by step, is making South Africa a better place for everyone.