NSDS 3 - Private Providers Forum - Fedback and comment

By dessquire, 14 June, 2010

The NSDS 3 discussion document was put forward by the Department of Higher Education simply as that – a discussion document.

Unfortunately I have heard very little with regard to discussions taking place related to the actual content of the document - a task entrusted to the SETAS.
This is of concern as the feedback required by the NSA and the DHET is feedback on the proposals contained in the document.

What I have read about and what was discussed at a forum I attended are what appears to me to be, the misleading and unprofessional opinions of a group of negative individuals.

I say this for one very specific reason in particular. This reason relates to the agenda for this particular discussion forum. The heading on the agenda states quite blatantly and specifically

“Have you read
the new NSDS 3 proposal regarding the future of private training provision in South Africa? If not click here to download the NSDS 3 draft document.”

This is blatantly misleading as no document with such a title or reference exists. What does exist is a document entitled “Framework for the National Skills Development Strategy 2011/12 to 2015/16 and this is what would have been downloaded by anyone choosing to do so.

I attended the forum as a matter of interest and hoping to vent my annoyance I admit.

The discussion opened with an address by the CEO of one of the SETAS who spent a great deal of time emphasising he was speaking in his private capacity. In his address he pointed out

• The NSDS separates Public and Private institutions – This is not correct as the discussion document points out that the NSDS strategy will see the bringing together of all role players under the banner of the DET.
• He then went on to speak of the need to ensure FET colleges got no preferential treatment in terms of accreditation
• On the issue of affordability of fees for certain of our less affluent learners this was misconstrued to mean the DHET was merely “chasing the money”

Getting into the heart of the discussion document and in particular section 5.3 and 5.4 he emphasised that private providers were in fact more geared up than FET colleges to provide pivotal programmes. To me this would indicate an ongoing need for private providers so why then was he saying the document indicated an intention to remove private providers?

Regarding the role of private providers as contained in point 5.4 the document refers to Programme Delivery Partners. It goes on to speak of a new environment “one where full partnerships between workplaces and institutions, both public and private, can be struck”. This statement again was misconstrued to indicate the demise of the private providers and a forcing of partnerships.

The document goes on to outline the thinking in terms of the upgrading of the status of public providers and the uplifting of their capacity in order to be able to service a specific economic segment of the market. Once again this was seen to indicate the end of private providers.
However the document then states, “This should not be read to infer there is no role for private providers – however it does signal that a special emphasis is to be paid to uplifting public providers and where private providers can assist with this task their contribution will be highly valued” This to me indicates a willingness to learn from and benefit from the experiences of private providers and not as indicated by the speaker a threat to private providers.

Mary Metcalf, the Director General of the DHET, followed by means of a video presentation, as she could not personally attend. She pointed out the policy document had bee circulated in order to invite and encourage debate. She clarified what she saw as misleading statements made in the circulation by the organisers. In particular she clarified the modus operandi of government in entering into discuss regarding the NSDS 3 as follows
• Release of the NSDS 3 Discussion document
• Receipt of feedback by the NSA who would then advise the Minister
• Minister would then decide on policy

Miss Metcalf went on to emphasise
• That Skills Development was critical to all our futures
• That the quality of skills development in the workplace has been of concern to employers
• That the objective of the DHET was to bring together and address the needs related to all post school education and training
• The need to address the specific needs of each economic sector. In this regard she pointed out that sector skills plans must be credible and related to each specific economic sector. It is for this reason the plans must be signed off by major stakeholders in the various sectors before submission by the SETAS. The overall result therefore of this effort will be that SETAs will have o distribute funds according to the economic sector requirements.

Miss Metcalf went on to question the concerns and at the same time point out the misleading statements being put forward.
• She stated she could not understand the concern
• She asked why certain misleading question had been put forward. See
• She stated there was a role for all and plenty opportunities to go around
• She stated skills development covers all levels and will involve all institutions
• She stated the SETAS must be aware of and accept this fact.

It appeared to me the NSDS 3 document had been misconstrued and misinterpreted by a group of people. These interpretations had been circulated to others and used as a means of creating a very volatile situation. The fact that some very prominent persons and institutions were involved leaves a bitter taste for me personally.
In a nutshell, I am ashamed of those who claim to represent segments of our industry and disappointed so many seem incapable of reading and understanding a very straightforward and simple document. I am also ashamed that those concerned did not follow the process offered to them and enter into discussion in terms of the process set out instead of stirring up so much negative sentiment.

Des Squire (Director) applied Management Studies International (Pty) Ltd
[email protected] - 0116469369



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