Skills, education agreements to boost SA

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pretoria - Skills development and education have received a significant boost through the signing of two accords that will, among others, see 30 000 new artisans receive training.

"The accords will focus on concrete issues," Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said at the signing of the National Skills Accord and the Basic Education Accord on Wednesday.

The accords are a partnership by business, government, labour as well as the community. This follows on engagements following the release of the New Growth Path, designed to create five million jobs in the next decade. Skills and education are key elements in the growth path.

"Addressing education and skills development is one of the core aspects of the New Growth Path," said Patel.

The skills accord has eight key commitments designed to drive training and development and under it, up to 30 000 new artisan students are expected to enter training this year. Thirty-one percent of this figure will come from the government sector, 13 percent will be state owned enterprises and 56 percent is the private sector.

It will also provide opportunities for training in a work environment for at least 16 000 lecturers at FET collages, which will be phased in.

Business and labour have committed to ensuring that the funding of training is available through the skills development levy. Business also undertook to improve spending on training beyond the one percent compulsory training levy. The accord stipulates that business will urge companies to spend between three and five percent of their total salary bill voluntarily on training.

The National Skills Fund (NSF) will be used effectively to support skills that address the priorities of the growth path.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said all partners involved in the accords will be subject to annual binding targets. To date, said Nzimande, the department is in the process of finalizing how to spend the fund's money in consultation with the relevant ministers.

"There is over R4 billion of unspent money from the past and R2 billion from this year."

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said government is encouraged by the accord specifically for underperforming schools.

"It came at the right time. The accord will help redirect resources," said Motshekga of the accord, that saw parties having committed to adopting poorly performing schools.

Organised labour, business as well as community organizations committed to a target of between 100 and 200 schools to be supported in the adopt-a-school initiative.

Representing organised labour [Cosatu, National Teachers Union (Naptu), Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA)], Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said that labour has for a long time argued that something needs to be done to change the lives of workers through skills development and education -- not only for children but for workers as well.

"We are making a commitment to play our part. All accords will require active participation," he said, adding that the key to the success of the accords is not the signing itself but rather the participation of all involved to make it a success.

The secretary general added that unions will work to change the mindset "of all public servants, including educators to know that our future lies in their hands."

Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) president Futhi Mthoba said the accords represent agreements on areas of concern in respect of the growth path. "The critical part of the accords is that each partner is responsible for deliverables. We will hold each other responsible," she said.

Patel said: "The critical challenge for creating more jobs is to deal with skills shortages and issues, and what we've assembled here in these two accords is a partnership right across the training pipeline from primary school right through to FET collages and beyond. We've brought here the people with resources."