Training scheme to bolster economic growth, job creation

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cape Town - Government plans to scale up its training lay-off scheme as part of seven areas it wants to focus on, to grow the economy and create jobs, says Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.

Pandor was briefing the media on Tuesday on areas the Economic Sector and Employment Cluster identified, and which were approved by a Cabinet Lekgotla in January, to help put the country on a new growth path.

The plan includes the implementation of phase two of the government's framework response to the global financial crisis, the Industrial Policy Action Plan 2, launched two weeks ago, a focus on science and innovation, the creation of green jobs, promotion of rural enterprises, boosting the Expanded Public Works Programme, tourism and scaling up support to small enterprises.

Pandor said during the second phase of the framework response, the government would accelerate take-up of the training lay-off scheme while offering continued financial support for struggling companies and clamping down on illegal imports and under-invoicing.

Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel said the training lay-off scheme, which helped companies to place workers who faced the possibility of retrenchments on training programmes, would be scaled up.

The pilot for the scheme kicked off in November, but Patel said the Department of Labour's committee that oversees the scheme had so far only approved about 2 700 workers who would benefit from the scheme.

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) would continue supporting companies that were struggling because of the recent recession, but Patel said those firms that wanted to access financial support would have to adhere to four conditions.

He said the new criteria, which were approved by President Jacob Zuma in December, included a commitment by the company to create or save jobs, to place a restraint on executive pay, to use more local suppliers and inputs and to promote a better social dialogue in the workplace.

The IDC had calculated that on the support and finance that it had so far rendered, it had helped save about 7 700 jobs, he said.

The government was also considering recapitalising its small business finance agency Khula Enterprise Finance and the South African Micro-Finance Apex Fund (Samaf), said Patel.

Khula doesn't lend directly to business owners, but rather lends to banks and finance agencies.

Patel said this was limiting to Khula and added that an announcement would soon be made on the agency's plan to lend directly to smaller firms.

"We don't think we are doing enough and we don't think we have been successful enough in supporting small businesses," said Patel.

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Gugile Nkwinti said the government would scale up support to rural areas by rolling out its Comprehensive Rural Development programme to 150 wards.

The programme includes a job creation model where one person per participating household will be trained and placed on a two-year employment contract.

Each person employed will contribute at least half of a household's income, said Nkwinti.

He said the Department of Trade and Industry was helping those based in rural areas to set up their own co-operatives and enterprises.

The Department of Land Affairs would also recapitalise 200 struggling emerging farmers who had acquired land under the land reform programme, he said.

Pandor said the government's plan for green jobs, which would target the transport, energy, building, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry sectors, would be finalised by July.

She said the government was already supporting clean energy research at a number of universities and had invested in an electric car and would soon launch the prototype of an e-bike.