Much has been said in the past about the states focus on utilising the Public FET Colleges to be the primary engines of skills development and education in the country. I really do feel that one cannot really press either the private or public sector advantage here at all. It really should be focused on the quality of outputs that both public and private training provider institutions deliver in an integrated fashion. Here I also include the NGO, social organisations and professional bodies (legislated or membership constituted) that provide education, training and development services as well.
The recent economic crisis has pointed to failures in provision by both broad types of providers out there and locally win South Africa. The reality is that FET colleges have an entrenched role within the educational landscape, along with single purpose private training providers.
I think it is key to rather say that private provision driven from subject matter experts (SME’s) that are linked to a community of practice is the key element of a thriving short course driven and sector led markets, in which many private providers play and compete in along with public sector institutions. The education landscape is not consistent, so at a regional level the lack of public FET institutions can be off-set by private institutions and single purpose providers. They can and if we really admit do take up the slack and have done so for quite some time. Sectors like Wholesale and Retail have traditionally lagged behind in the vocational training stakes and without the intervention and involvement of the private sector training providers there would have been a lack of capacity to service its growing education and training needs. Areas that certainly cannot be serviced by the private sector for obvious reasons include defense, military and public law enforcement.
The evolving trend is the development of the adaptors of curriculum and programmes for specific client led needs. The future rests with the ability to provide a strong quality orientated generic curriculum to empower and develop our citizens; young, old, male, female, across the racial and cultural divide and as noted by the Zimbabwean permit allowances our fellow colleagues across national borders. Equally important is the ability to provide contextualised curriculum and learning interventions that match and link to organisational or individual needs for workplace or life performance. Both of these expertise sets are needed within South Africa. What is needed now is a strong focus on adaptation of learning content to support both foundational and contextualisation needs of South Africa. The focus on the development of proactive education leadership at school level, needs to be mirrored in the private and public sector organisations with a strong empahsis on strategic training and development departments and provision.
A really good example of this approach has been the reformation of the South African Management Development Institute (SAMDI) into the Public Administration and Leadership Academy (PALAMA) under the direction of Dr. Mark Orkin which emphasises partnerships with both the private and public sector to deliver integrated learning solutions to the challenges of the professionalisation and upskilling of the South African Public Service.
Andre Kraak former Deputy Chairperson of JIPSA has really captured the essence of what is needed. A ‘joined-up’ approach to education and training to achieve the kind of nation-building that we South Africans no doubts can pull off. A long term sustained drive to harness the strengths of the whole range of role-eplayers in education and training to grow our innovation base. Just a few thoughts for you to consider. Finally it would serve all of us well to try and evaluate the education and training focus areas that are not being adequately covered by both the public and private providers. A bit of work, but it should be quite interesting to see the results.