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By normanntai, 5 July, 2012

Dr. B E Nzimande,                  Minister of Higher Education and                  Training  

National Artisan Development              Conference Eskom Conference              Centre, Midrand   

            

Programme Director  

 Honorable Cabinet Colleagues          

Organised Labour, Business and State Colleagues          

Distinguished guests          

Comrades          

Ladies and gentlemen


        Since taking office in April 2009, I have been looking        forward to this opportunity to start a formal and on-going        conversation with        the artisan development community in our country.The need for        the development        of qualified artisans to support the economy remains a high        priority. This is        especially so in the light of the government’s intention to        strengthen        manufacturing in our country in line with the New Growth Path        and the        Industrial Policy Action Plan II.


        The growth of industry, as well as the strategic infrastructure        projects        announced by the President in January - some of which are        already being rolled        out – require a significant number of qualified and competent        artisans.


        These projects - and the economic activities that they will        stimulate – will        require qualified and capable workforce particularly in the        manufacturing,        construction, operations, maintenance and heavy industrial        sectors. Unless we        accelerate the training of artisans, their numbers will fall        short of the        demands of industry, and therefore adversely affect both        production and job        creation. The impact will be felt in inadequate economic growth        and        government’s reduced ability to provide basic and other welfare        services to our        people.


        Some of the milestones that we have achieved include the        establishment of our        national artisan development programme and I also released the        first ever list        of occupations that are regarded as artisan trades in our        country and globally.        That list will go a long way to clarify, in the minds of a lot        of our people,        exactly what an artisan trade is. Today I would like us to focus        on very        specific issues that are related to the purpose, desired        outcomes and theme of        this conference.


        With the opening of today’s session I am establishing, directly        under my        auspices, a platform that will annually review the state of        artisan development        in South Africa and allow for discussion and consultation on how        to continually        improve the National Programme for Artisan Development, the        “7-Steps to        Becoming a Qualified Artisan”.

Although we are starting today with a small, developmental        conference, we are        nevertheless building on some important advances over the past        three years and        my intent is that we progressively expand this discourse across        all the        provinces so that when we come together again next year, we have        a much louder        and clearer voice on national artisan development that is        implemented in all        provinces.


        There is no doubt in my mind that we need to accelerate the        process for        improving the status and profile of artisan trades as        inspirational careers for        the large numbers of young South Africans. This conference and        the provincially        based discussions that will follow will require all our partners        to commit to        the “7-Steps” in support of accelerating the development of        these key labour        force skills.


        On 12 January 2012, my department successfully launched a Green        Paper on Post        School Education and Training. I must express my appreciation        for the        resounding response and support to this process, which has        helped to shape the        thinking in the Higher Education and Training National (DHET) on        the        challenges, purpose, organisation and priorities of the post        school system in        South Africa.


        Those of you who are familiar with the Green Paper, you would        have noted that        artisan training and other forms of workplace-based training are        a central part        of our strategy to expand education and training opportunities        for our people        and especially our youth.


        Closely associated with the expansion of education and training        opportunities        is the question of raising the status of vocational training.        The idea that        trades and other vocational programmes are only for those who        can’t get into        university is deeply ingrained in our society and has a        detrimental effect on        our ability to develop the skills required by our labour market,        not to mention        the status of those who make a very important contribution to        our economy and        society.


        We need to work towards making Further Education and Training        (FET) Colleges        and the artisan and other career-based training programmes that        they offer the        option of choice for the majority of those who take this route.


        The National Artisan Moderation Body or NAMB that I established        on 30 November        2010, is charged with the responsibility to coordinate artisan        development in        the country. It has reported to me that a process has been        started to open NAMB        Offices in provinces, located in engineering campuses of public        FET colleges.


        The first task of each of these offices will be to coordinate,        in collaboration        with the Skills Education Training Authorities (SETAs) and FET        colleges in        their respective provinces, to organise provincial conferences        so that we can        raise the profile and impetus of artisan development through the        provinces,        districts and local municipality structures. Ideally these        conferences should        be held at FET college campuses so that we can continue to        locate our public        FET colleges at the centre of all national artisan development        processes.
                 

 

The theme, “7-Steps – Becoming a Qualified Artisan” advocates the        National Programme for Artisan Development and allows for a        common        national, cross-SETA and cross-sector understanding of processes        involved in        becoming an artisan. To a large extent, institutional and        general public        knowledge of this process has been lost to South Africans. The        conflated and        confusing sector-based skills development system has created        huge blockages to        a simple and easy-to-understand artisan development system.


        This conference therefore offers us the opportunity to        re-introduce and        re-emphasise the basic steps of becoming an artisan and how        these steps can be        efficiently and effectively implemented. The theme of this        conference allows        for a structured discussion on each of the “7 steps”, especially        on those        critical particular issues that we need to pay attention to,        which I will        briefly reflect on.
        

 

  Step 1 is about career guidance and management.       

 

Here we need to work with our partners in career advice and the        DHET’s Kheta        Campaign to rally young people, at a much younger age, possible        around grade 7,        to start thinking seriously about career options in technical        and vocational        programmes that would ultimately lead them to become qualified        artisans. The        conference needs to look at ways on how the country can achieve        this artisan        career bias.


        We should also consider how we can assist qualified artisans who        might be now        stuck in a job with no apparent prospects for advancement, to        access options        for further progression. Some of the best engineers in our        country do not come        out of the university system but were artisans that studied        further, gained        experience and sat for exams to become government-certificated        engineers. We        need to get all the positive elements of that system revitalized        and improved        upon, as soon as possible.
  

   

     Step 2 (Fundamental Theory) relates        to fundamental vocational engineering theory that is taught        primarily at public        FET Colleges. This is learning that lays the foundation for any        person who        wants to progress into an engineering career. It includes, in        particular,        mathematics, engineering science, and engineering drawing. There        is a growing        need to start including language to enrich such a curriculum.                   While many young people can enter and enjoy such learning, I        would particularly like to draw your attention to the millions        of young South        Africans, mainly under the age of 25, who, for one reason or        another, dropped        out of school. It is incumbent upon us to try to get these young        people, who        are neither in employment, in education nor training, youngsters        that we        commonly refer to as “NEETs”, into bridging programmes that can        get them        qualified with this basic fundamental engineering theory.


        The quality assurance of these programmes is the domain of        UMALUSI, so I look        forward to ideas from this critical body on how we can improve        opportunities        for the “NEETs” in our society.
        

 

  Step 3 (Learner Programme Registration) is        where the SETAs, as custodians of artisan learner agreements and        contracts,        start to play a critical role. This is really the start of the        artisan learner        data pipeline, without playing down the link between this step        and the two        preceding steps. It would bring me great pleasure if all        learners who enter FET        colleges to do a NATED programme (or N-course) did so already        having an        agreement or contract for an artisan programme, but that is not        the reality        today in South Africa. We lost that link in the early 80s’.


I invite all stakeholders in this conference to suggest concrete        ways that        would help us to get the link back.
                  Critical to step 3 is also the development and        implementation of a single, guaranteed funding and learner        administration        system for all artisan trades applicable to all sectors.

 

This        has been raised        with the Human Resource Development Council as the key blockage        to national        artisan development. So we must provide a real positive and        definitive way        forward on this matter.
        I am also aware that there is a plan approved by the        Director-General of my        department to set up a national artisan data centre at        Ekurhuleni East FET        College in Kwa-Thema (Gauteng Province) to facilitate the        balance between        supply and demand pipelines. This is good news as we will have        the FET College        system at the centre of artisan development data management.
         

 

Step 4 (Trade knowledge and practical training) and Step          5 (Workplace experience) takes our artisan learners        into        the real practical space on artisan training and development.        The learners        become exposed to the application of trade theory of their        chosen artisan        trade. The learner practices this trade in a simulated        environment at a        training centre and then apply the knowledge in the workplace. I        am aware that        there are numerous variations of this process, depending on the        sector and        whether the programme is a learnership or an apprenticeship. I        think there        could be some simplification of these steps but the technical        aspects of each        trade will determine that.


        The examples I have observed in Germany and Switzerland of the        dual system of        apprenticeship training is something I think we seriously need        to investigate.        There is currently a Steering Committee, coordinated by the        NAMB, which is busy        with a pilot project in this regard. At the centre of such a        dual system must        be the public FET colleges. As the dual system requires very        close cooperation        between a training centre and an employer, the SETAs will also        have to become        involved with the FET colleges as the dual system is developed.     
        

 

  Step 6 of artisan development process is known        as trade testing, but also known as summative assessment. This        has been an area        of concern for some time now as it seems that there are a lot of        rather        unsavoury activities going on around trade testing. There are        disturbing        reports of bribery linked to the easy passing of trade tests. So        we need to        move forward as soon as possible into an environment that        fosters good controls        around trade testing. It is essential that such a critical        environment is        centrally controlled by the NAMB as the nucleus of its work.                   Included in the area of trade testing is the matter of        Recognition of Prior Learning or Recognition of Prior Learning        (RPL).

 

This is        an area where, if we apply our minds, we can double, even        triple, the number of        persons who qualify as artisans. There is currently a pilot        process underway to        RPL at least 200 artisans aides from, among others, COSATU and        FEDUSA        affiliated union members.
        To all involved, let us make sure that the process moves as fast        as humanly        possible. As you may know, I have appointed a Ministerial Task        Team to develop        a framework for the implementation of RPL, and I am confident        that the output        of its work will help facilitate the expansion of access and        throughputs.
         

 

The last and seventh step for artisan        development, known as Quality Assurance and Certification, falls under        the legislative control of the Quality Council for Trades and        Occupations        (QCTO), but is delegated to the NAMB through service-level        agreements and        delegations to the Director-General. This relationship between        the QCTO and the        NAMB is a key partnership since the “T” in QCTO stands for        TRADES, which        denotes a very special relationship between the two structures.
        This relationship will surely bring about improved quality in        the competence of        our artisans as the QCTO and NAMB start to implement national        processes of        accreditation, moderation and quality assurance over the next        few years.
  

 

                While this role has to date been largely carried out by the        SETAs for occupational qualifications such as the trades, the        SETAs will        provide the much needed monitoring role to ensure that the        national policies        and practices of quality assurance as developed by QCTO and NAMB        are        implemented. The QCTO and NAMB relationship is implementing a        process within        the Department to remove the practices associated with the        Manpower Training        Act of 1981 and replace them with the new artisan development        regime provided        for in the Skills Development Act as amended in 2008.                   All the above must translate into practical programmes that        will produce artisans in various trades and in the numbers we        need.

 

This        conference will have to focus on practical strategies to        increase the        production of artisans, and the kinds of partnerships we need to        forge or        strengthen in order to realise our objective of the increased        production of        skills.                   Let me conclude by expressing my utmost appreciation and        gratitude for the unwavering support and sponsorship received        from the SETAs        for this ground-breaking conference as reflected in the        programme. I am sure        that together with the public FET colleges in all provinces, we        will see        unsurpassed commitment and support, and that the fruits of your        hard work will        find expression in sustained benefits to generations of our        aspirant and        current artisans.                

 

   Indeed in our discussions and plans we also need to strongly        factor in the National Skills Accord with its prioritisation of        work-placement        for apprenticeships and the exposure of FET college lecturers to        current technology        in industry. The Skills accord is a very important platform and        weapon to        realise increased artisan production.                

 

   I’d like to conclude by thanking you all for responding to        the invitation to attend this conference, your attendance and        participation is        highly acknowledged.

I have no doubt that the conference will        achieve its        objectives and wish you well in your deliberations.

 

Although I        am unable to        remain with you throughout the conference, I look forward        eagerly to receiving        the detailed conference report.    

 

       Thank you.                    

 

Issued by: Department of            Higher Education and            Training           4 Jul 2012          


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