Does SA need a skills revolution?

National Skills Conference

Picture by DHET

Stakeholders with a common vision to empower the nation through skills development gathered at the National Skills Conference 2017.

During his address, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted some of the challenges facing the skills development and training sector, starting with the need for collaboration.

Cooperation within the post-school system is critical for the fundamental transformation of our society.”

He called for cooperation between managers of institutions and students, between educational institutions and employers, between universities and TVET colleges.

Another challenge was creating spaces for meaningful national dialogue devoid of “insults, violence and intimidation”.

He condemned the disruptive behaviour displayed during the first sitting of the Higher Education National Convention.

As we commend the efforts led by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke in organising stakeholders to find lasting solutions to the challenges facing higher education, we must condemn the disruption that took place.”

Improving access to education would require alternate learning platforms that the post-schooling system currently did not provide.

…we need more places and different avenues for people to learn… if we are to serve the needs of all South Africans better, we need more types of courses and qualifications.’

There was also a call to balance the current and future skills needs of the country.

We must develop the skills that people need now because people need jobs now. But we must be working just as hard to develop the skills that our people will need tomorrow.”

The National Skills Conference endeavoured to address some of these challenges in order to “build a prosperous, equitable and just society.

…this will not be achieved without a skills revolution that empowers all our people.”

Excerpt from the Deputy President’s Nationals Skills Conference Address:

The theme of this conference – Skills Development for an Integrated and Differentiated Post-School Education and Training System – resonates with the objectives of the White Paper.

It reminds us that if the post-school system is to serve the country well, we need more places and different avenues for people to learn.

It says if we are to serve the needs of all South Africans better, we need more types of courses and qualifications.

It stresses that if we are to serve the poor and working class better, we need more financial support for students, and better quality education and training.

Cognisant that patriarchy perpetuates the disempowerment of women, post-school education and training must broaden access for women to skills development opportunities.

Cognisant that people in rural areas have fewer opportunities than urban residents, we need to direct resources towards those parts of the country that have traditionally been neglected.

This is a call to institutions to develop effective academic support programmes for learners from underprivileged backgrounds.

It is a call for schools to mainstream career guidance and counselling in their activities.

It is a call for greater private sector participation and investment in improving learning and teaching.

This is a vision of a post-school system that is responsive both to South Africa’s developmental needs and the needs of individual citizens and employers.

Its goal is to achieve a more cooperative relationship between education and training institutions.

In such a single, coherent and coordinated post-school education and training system, stakeholders consciously work to increase the diversity of provision.

The purpose is to foster trust in the system, avoid undue duplication and attend to the needs of all learners irrespective of age.

The White Paper offers concrete proposals on expanding access and improving the performance of the sector.

It has clear plans, targets and goals for community colleges, TVETs and universities.

It also addresses improved access through distance education and curricula innovation.

This conference must evaluate the progress we have made in implementing the policy since November 2013.

It must address challenges and propose practical solutions to our implementation plans.

In all that we do, let us ensure that we pay attention to the voices of students and employers.

These are the people who need the skills.

These are the people who know what skills are needed.

Industry needs to collaborate with management to improve the profile of our TVET colleges.

Training at these institutions needs to become an attractive proposition for any young person seeking skills for meaningful employment.

Industry needs to work with management to ensure that what is taught is relevant and that those who are doing the teaching are sufficiently knowledgeable and effectively equipped.

Above all, this conference needs to ensure that our entire approach to skills development is rooted in the future.

It needs to redress the injustices of the past, it needs to address the challenges of the present, and, most crucially, it needs to prepare our youth to meet the demands of the workplace of tomorrow.

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