Key Points:

  • A skills shortage of serious proportions faces South Africa. This is a major constraint on our prospects for achieving the kind of sustained economic growth that will open the way for much wider participation in the economy, as well as reduce poverty and a range of related social ills.
  • By 2006, it was clear that South Africa’s skills shortages were not only persisting, but intensifying. Chronic vacancies and poor productivity in the public service threatened the government’s ambitions to be a ‘developmental state’, and surveys of firms repeatedly confirmed the difficulties caused to businesses by skills shortages.
  • Research into the expectation and performance of SETAs; skills shortages in the public service; the status of artisan training; and the function and role of the government’s Joint Initiative of Priority Skills Acquisition programme produced a number of takeaways.
  • These are: education is failing training, while training is expected to compensate for educational deficiencies; too much is expected of the skills development framework, which has expanded to have too many functions across too many fields; and institutional performance has been uneven at best.
  • The situation calls for system-wide review, new thinking, and serious consideration given to radical reform. At a minimum, the suspicion should be addressed that our system of skills development is flawed in conception and execution but is too big, too entrenched, and too invested with political capital to be overhauled.

Press release: The Skills Revolution – Are we making progress ?

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