Voting off the weakest links

By sylviahammond, 18 March, 2009

For the second time Setas are required to apply for re-establishment. Given the frequent media reports on under-performing Setas, it’s worth asking some questions this time around, about who is making the decisions on which Setas should be re-established – or amalgamated - and on what criteria.

If Setas were to make the decisions, they might want to vote off the strongest link to avoid undue competition, alternatively they could vote off the Setas that are a constant source of embarrassment to them – a criticism of one is often expanded to a criticism of all.

The decision lies with the Department of Labour and the Minister Membathisi Mdladlana. At the end of the first 5 years, he decided to merge primary and secondary agriculture Setas creating the new AGRISETA, and the police and legal fraternity with defence into the new SASSETA – giving us 23 Setas – down from the original 25.

This time, there has been discussion of reducing the number of Setas to as little as 5 Setas – but this proposal appears to have faded somewhat. Surely the decision should not be based on any pre-determined target number but rather on performance criteria.

But that’s what happened last time – performance criteria as set by the Department of Labour based on the National Skills Development Strategy. Is that sufficient? Do Setas chase numbers at the expense of quality of service to their sector?

Should stakeholders be more actively involved? Yes, the Seta Boards are supposed to represent stakeholder bodies – but do they? The Skills Development Act requires that “organised labour” and “organised employers” – with professional bodies – should participate. Is this adequate and does it address the reality of our economy?
What about the sectors that are not well organised – either from a labour or employer perspective? What about all the employers who are large enough to be levy-paying (annual payroll of more than R250 000), but don’t have the capacity – or financial means – to actively participate in Seta chambers and boards?

What about those employers who have never participated in skills development? Why don’t they participate? Is it because the Seta structures are not meeting their needs? Seta Boards tend to be dominated by the multinationals and large employers – they are the participating stakeholders, and they can readily assist Setas to achieve their Department of Labour targets. Are these numbers at the expense of quality or relevance?

What about a public participation process? Yes, we are all able to have our say. The existing Setas who wish to be re-established are required to advertise for input from: their SETA constituencies, stakeholders, and members of the general public. Now is our opportunity to provide relevant information to the Setas.

Visit your Seta website: does it have the Seta Constitution? Does it have the Sector Skills Plan? If not, contact your Seta and request the documents. Why are these documents relevant? The Constitution sets out how the Seta bodies are structured, in addition to the Seta Board, are there individual constituency chambers that address the sub-sector that you are in? Is there membership for small/medium employers? The Sector Skills Plan should provide the analysis of your sector, identify the skills shortages and provide plans to address these? Will these adequately address your needs?

What about your involvement with the Seta? Simple requirements such as whether they are contactable – do they answer their telephone, are they available for questions or do they have a help centre – and if so, is it of any help?
What about their administration and financial management? Have you received your mandatory grant refunds on time? Have there been delays in processing your applications? What about the Seta Annual Report – what does the Auditor General report – and look for “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”, always a telling item. Is it the Seta management that should be changed?

If you have Learners on Learnerships, what has been your experience? Are they still waiting for their certificates 2 years after the end of the programme? If you are Learner – especially a previously unemployed learner (an 18.2 Learner), what is/was your experience?

Are you a training service provider, and what has been your experience with the ETQA? Have you had your training programme registered? How efficient was the process? Have you tried to register a skills programme? What was your experience?

Let’s consider - if the Setas are to be re-established, what do we expect from them over the next five year period?

Participation now is as important as voting in our general election – we need to influence decisions that will shape our skills development future – if we don’t participate, then we can’t complain.

Let’s vote off the weakest links. (With apologies to Fiona Coyle any similarities are entirely co-incidental.)



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