New accords to boost skills, education

15 July 2011

Education and training in South Africa have received a major boost through the signing of two accords that will see 30 000 new artisans and 16 000 college lecturers being trained, and under-performing schools receiving business and community support.

“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 in Pretoria this week.

New Growth Path

The accords involve partnerships among business, government, labour and communities, and result from engagements that followed the release of the New Growth Path, which aims to create five million jobs in the next decade.

“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. Under it, up to 30 000 new artisan students are expected to enter training this year. The majority of this figure (56%) will come from the private sector, 31% from government, and 13% from state-owned companies.

It accord will also phase in opportunities for training in a work environment for at least 16 000 lecturers at Further Education and Training (FET) collages.

“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,” said Patel. “We’ve brought here the people with resources.”

Annual binding targets

The National Skills Fund 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 would be subject to annual binding targets, adding that his department was in the process of finalising 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,” he said.

Help for underperforming schools

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the government was encouraged by the accord specifically for under-performing schools: “It came at the right time. The accord will help redirect resources.”

Organised labour, business and community organisations have committed to a target of between 100 and 200 poorly performing schools to be supported in the adopt-a-school initiative.

Improving spending on training

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 1% compulsory training levy. The accord stipulates that business will urge companies to spend between 3-5% of their total salary bill voluntarily on training.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) president Futhi Mthoba said the accords represented agreements on areas of concern in respect of the New Growth Path. “The critical part of the accords is that each partner is responsible for deliverables. We will hold each other responsible,” she said.

Changing mindset of public servants

Representing organised labour, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said that labour had for a long time argued that something needed to be done to change the lives of workers through skills development and education.

“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 was not the signing itself but rather the participation of all involved to make it a success.

Vavi added that unions would work to change the mindset “of all public servants, including educators, to know that our future lies in their hands”.

Source: BuaNews