More emphasis on skills development needed

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pretoria - Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize says while the department has policies in place, there is a need to put more emphasis on skills development and the creation of academic and work opportunities for young people.

Speaking at the signing of the Joint Declaration on Education and Training Sectoral Policy Dialogue Forum between South Africa and the European Commission, Mkhize said the department had a mandate to ensure that there was a planned skills development programme in the country. She said the department had policies and plans in place.

"We are ensuring through the National Skills Development Strategy 111 that there is sufficient funding for skills development and the research capacity of our institutions is strengthened through research funding allocations and collaboration with bodies such as the National Research Foundation," Mkhize said.

However, she said they would need international partnerships to ensure that the department's policies on skills development were resourced and effectively implemented.

Commenting on Statistics South Africa's Quarter 1, 2012 Labour Force Survey, which showed that the current unemployment rate stands at 25, 2 percent with 4.5 million South Africans being unemployed, Mkhize said that the situation required them to ensure that South Africans, especially the youth, were equipped with the relevant skills for the economy.

"We have similarly also taken note of anecdotal reports that indicate that with the fiscal challenges that have lately afflicted some European Union Member States, rising unemployment amongst young people has been a global trend."

She said that benefits of the dialogue forum allowed them equal footing, not in the context of traditional official development assistance where there is a benefactor and a beneficiary, but rather as partners seeking redemption and thus use a single vehicle to amass the intellectual capital on the basis of which policy approaches could be considered and tested.

"The Dialogue Forum, through its many pursuits, is therefore the right avenue to assist us as policy makers, in not only building greater people-to-people camaraderie between South Africa and the European Commission, amongst others, but also to find concrete solutions for the youth unemployability that has afflicted us.

The signing took place on the sidelines of the "African Higher Education Harmonisation: Tuning and Shaping Responsive and Quality Postgraduate Education" Conference taking place at the University of the Western Cape.