Saturday, May 29, 2010

South African Communist Party General Secretary Addresses YCL Jobs for Youth Summit

Address by Minister of Higher Education and Training and SACP General Secretary Dr Blade Nzimande at the YCL Jobs for Youth Summit

21 May 2010, Parktonian Hotel

Firstly, let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Young Communist League for this very first initiative of its type, bringing together the country`s major youth formations to engage on youth development, skills development and job creation. Over the past two days, this summit has served as a platform for robust debate on a number of issues contributing to the high rate of joblessness among the youth and ways to create decent work.

It is rare that youth organisations from across the political, social and religious spectrum have come together to debate such a critical issue in society and I am proud that the youth wing of the SACP has risen to the challenge to promote constructive engagement on youth issues. Let me also commend all the youth organisations who participated in this summit for recognising the centrality of job creation to the development and progress of our country, and for taking this platform and opportunity seriously. This is what we have come to expect from the YCL and indeed from all youth organisations that are serious about matters confronting youth in our country today.

During the summit, you would have heard many voices of concern, including that of the YCL National Secretary and my Cabinet colleagues, about the growing rate of unemployment and the impact on the youth and our society as a whole. Statistics SA`s announcement earlier this month that the official unemployment rate has climbed from 24.3% to 25.2% set the backdrop for discussions at this summit. With an estimated 4.31million workers unemployed, reducing poverty levels and the follow-on social consequences is no easy, but nevertheless urgent, task.

In the Department of Higher Education and Training, we have our work cut out, and working together with you and other important stakeholders, we are determined to confront these challenges. Alarming figures produced through research by the Ford Foundation showing that approximately 2.8 million of 18 to 24 year olds are neither in employment, nor education or training. This means that over 40% of our youth are not productively engaged. Many young people do not complete high school, and of those who do, many cannot proceed with their studies because of the poor quality of their achievements, lack of resources or the lack of job opportunities.

Ironically, the very problems facing our youth are exploited by other forces to create further problems and constraints. For instance our youth today is a target of drugs, exploited by labour brokers, given false hopes and corrupted by tenderpreneurs and a target of decadent American values and cultural onslaught. Therefore sustained youth programmes by all youth formations are necessary to counter these problems. A key dimension of this is a sustained struggle to cultivate positive values among our young people: that it is good to be educated, service to one`s country and social solidarity, and to defeat ideas of dog eat dog.

During this summit, you would have heard from my Cabinet and government colleagues some of the initiatives and interventions on the part of government to skill our citizens and increase employment. These include the Human Resource Development Strategy, the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS). These overarching strategies direct the work of government to reduce joblessness and create decent work.

The task we have set ourselves in the Department of Higher Education and Training is to create a diverse and differentiated post school system to provide a diverse range of learning and training opportunities for youth and adults. These, of course, must lead to gainful employment and access to other opportunities to create sustainable livelihoods, which is why intensive work is underway to improve alignment between the university, college and SETA systems, and the workplace.

I am pleased that the important challenge of skills development has been central to your discussions at this summit. Education and skills development is integrally linked to the creation and sustenance of decent work. If we are to tackle the issue of skills development, it is essential to understand the main blockages in the system. We need to understand that there is something systemically wrong with the current growth path which is still a semi-colonial, mineral extraction, export, consumer but debt driven economy whose growth recently has been fuelled by demand for primary commodities and mineral resources from China and India, as well as demand for consumer but non-productive economic activities. This semi-colonial growth path has also been characterised by casualisation, outsourcing and employment of cheap and more vulnerable labour from the SADC region, and this has become an alternative to investment in skills development.

This is simply not sustainable – hence the need to place skills development at the centre of our growth and development strategies.

There is both anecdotal and empirical evidence of skills shortages in a number of occupations and economic sectors within South Africa. It is clear that there is a tangible problem arising from the mismatch between the supply of and demand for skills in the South African labour market. There are certain areas of priority economic growth which require us to overcome particular skills shortages that are constraining growth and investment over the short term. This includes skills shortages in sectors such as energy, medium- and high-technology manufactured goods and agricultural biotechnology.

Last month, I released the draft framework for the NSDS III 2011/12 to 2015/16 which is the overarching strategic instrument for skills development and guides sector planning. A colleague from my department has already taken you through the main issues on this matter. The NSDS III, amongst other things, seeks to strengthen the partnerships between SETAs, employers and institutions of learning to meet the needs of the economy and increase the employability of learners and trainees. The document states that anticipating what skills will be needed, and when, is no easy matter. Careful planning is needed to support the human development needs necessary to fuel our aspirational growth path. Sector Skills Plans, which are five-year skills development reports prepared by SETAs, are expected to anticipate and promote sectoral economic growth trajectories and constitute our best estimates at the skills needs of an essentially unknowable future.

The NSDS III proposes a new and innovative programme called PIVOT which provides for increased numbers and relevance of academic, professional and vocational learning that meets the critical needs for economic growth and social development. These programmes generally combine course work at universities, universities of technology and colleges with structured learning at work. This is achieved by means of professional placements, work-integrated learning, apprenticeships, learnerships, internships and the like. We need a creative combination of short courses and more intensive occupationally linked programmes. The problem at the moment is that in our skills development programmes there is still too high a proportion for short courses and not enough support for occupationally linked and intensive programmes. The PIVOT programme aims to address this imbalance.

Linked to this is the need to improve the interface and articulation of programmes at universities, universities of technology, colleges and SETAs. There must be improved synergy and closer working relationships amongst all these institutions. In particular we intend to strengthen, build the capacity and expand public FET colleges to be a central cog in skills development in our country. But such programmes in FET colleges must not become a dead-end, but must be economically and socially relevant, as well as provide seamless progression into the workplace or universities.

I urge you all, even after this summit to study and engage on the draft NSDS III framework and to give us feedback as the final document will serve as the quintessential roadmap for skills development for the next five years.

Comrades and delegates, you will also be aware that an intensive assessment of the SETAs is underway to ensure greater accountability, improved employment of resources, better management of funds and streamlining and alignment of their operations in order that they fulfil their role as a central cog of our skills training and job creation machinery. I understand that yesterday you were also briefed on the proposed new SETA landscape that has also been released for public consultation. I also invite feedback on the proposed restructuring and re-design of the SETA landscape. In particular we will expect feedback and suggestions on how both NSDS III and the SETA system can best respond to the skills needs of the youth of our country.

The Skills Development Act requires that we set up provincial skills development forums. As a department, we are taking this requirement seriously and will be engaging the provinces on how these forums should be set up and operate. The primary functions of these forums will be to identify skills development priorities in provinces and to provide platforms for all stakeholders to engage on these priorities. It is important that the youth are represented on these forums which we intend establishing by the next financial year.

Another key priority of my department, as I have indicated above, is to stabilise and strengthen the college sector. It is still our intention to increase the student enrolment at Further Education and Training colleges to at least 1 million by 2015 as well as to increase the numbers and the quality of skilled artisans, particularly in priority trades. In this regard, I urge the youth organisations represented here to assist us to counter negative perceptions about FET colleges as consolation prizes when people cannot get into university. The 50 existing FET colleges are crucial to skills development through general and specific vocational education and training, and an important route for artisan training.

I also wish to inform you that I am personally taking active interest in artisan training in our country. To this end we will shortly be establishing a National Artisan Moderating Body which will, amongst other things, ensure the production of quality artisans and also clear obstacles around efficient and quality trade tests. The DHET is currently taking measures to strengthen INDLELA as part of our work to ensure increased artisan output.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who participated in and commented on the review of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The scheme is an essential tool to expanding access to higher education for the poor and working class youth. An implementation plan based on the recommendations of the review committee and the process of public comment will be tabled before Cabinet later this year and will be phased in from the 2011 academic year. I firmly believe the revamped scheme will reduce the financial prejudice many young people suffer which inhibits their ability to access post school education. We certainly have to also focus NSFAS on supporting students in public FET colleges, and not only universities.

One of the key recommendations of the Stakeholder Summit on Higher Education Transformation held last month was that we should create universities (and other post-school institutions) that are student-centred and which are caring institutions. Students are shaped by the entirety of their experience in these institutions which is why more care needs to go into the totality of the student experience. If we are to properly groom young people for the workplace and to become successful members of society, they need to be nurtured and supported. This is particularly important for students from poor and rural backgrounds who struggle to adapt to the new, daunting environments at university.

In the same way, students need to respect the institutions at which they learn and develop into future leaders. While frustration may sometimes boil over for students, it is unacceptable to damage property at institutions of higher learning as this deprives others among you and who come after you the right to learn. Respect, discipline and moral values are shaped and acquired at different times in a person`s life and are as essential as knowledge and skills. It would be our greatest achievement for graduates to come out of universities having acquired all of these.

This is part of the reason this summit and continued discussions between youth organisations is particularly important. It is essential that you unite in efforts to inculcate and foster discipline, respect, moral values, patriotism and hard work as these are critical ingredients for young people to succeed in society and in their chosen careers.

The Department of Higher Education and Training fully supports the proposal being made for a National Youth Service, which can go a long way in contributing towards skills development and other life skills for our youth. While there have been a lot of emotional responses to this proposal for youth service in the Defence Forces, we believe that a way has to be found to use this platform to train and equip young people with essential skills. I have already had discussions with the Minister of Defence, Lindiwe Sisulu on how best the two departments can partner in this initiative. This is not military service as is sometimes projected. We must condemn the hypocrisy of some of those opposed to this idea, as some of them were first in the queue and never opposed military service under apartheid; a conscription that was aimed at arming young white South Africans against the majority black youth.

Programme director, our collective efforts to educate and develop skills of current and future generations of school leavers will be hampered if they are not supported by the employers. It is essential that the business sector and professional organisations partner us to open up workplaces for learnerships, apprenticeships and workplace experience in order to improve the employability of young people. Employers must ensure that workplaces are not just places to boost the bottomline (not to be confused with the YCL`s Bottomline), but are also centres of training and platforms to nurture talent.

We must also confront and expose racist and patriarchal practices which many young people encounter during internships and workplace training, which they are forced to put up with in order to secure their qualification. The youth organisations represented here must play an active role in supporting young people confronted with discriminatory practices and challenge employers who abuse interns. For example my department is receiving lots of complaints and information about how students training to be accountants, engineers and in other professions continue to encounter racist and patriarchal attitudes and practices in the workplace. Some of them pass well at university only to be even frustrated out of the profession by hostile workplace training environments.

As part of addressing the above problems, I intend engaging the professional associations on these and other matters. I also hope that as part of the way forward out of this important summit, you can also work together to engage, amongst others, the professional associations.

Because of the relatively low levels of education of our youth, and the huge demand for low to mid level skills in our economy, it is understandable that there should be more focus on these. However, in the process we must not lose sight for the need for high-level skills, whose gender and racial profile is still highly skewed. Working together with the Department of Science and Technology we intend to inject more resources into post-graduate programmes, including doctoral and post-doctoral programmes, to strengthen research and innovation in our society. We hope that the youth formations represented here will also be seized with this matter and also encourage some of our students at universities to pursue post-graduate studies.

I look forward to the resolutions of this summit and urge youth formations to continue to co-operate on critical issues affecting the youth. I also hope that you can create some common platform and vehicle with which to continue engaging society on the matters you have discussed over the last two days. My department will always be open to engage with you especially on how we can support each other and work together to increase post-school opportunities for our youth, as well as access to quality skills.

I would like to share with you that my Ministry is about to embark on a major campaign on career guidance, targeting matriculants mainly in rural areas. It is tragic how so many young people are unable to access higher education, training and job prospects simply because they do not have information and critical career guidance on post-school opportunities. The campaign we are undertaking aims to make such information available, especially in rural areas, on a whole range of post-school opportunities, including the existence of NSFAS. I look forward to the active support and participation of your organisations in this campaign.

Collectively, you represent a significant voice of South African society and the quality and provocative debates which have taken place these past two days must be sustained and extended to other important areas relating to improving the conditions of our youth. I certainly hope that this summit results in positive and tangible outcomes and that more young people are able to acquire decent work and sustainable livelihoods.

As JR and HHP would say: "Let`s make da circle bigger"

I thank you

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I see your blog it is very attractive as compare to the other blogs and i got lof of idea from your blog for write blog
and that's very banificial for me and everyone this is reason that every person like your blog. Employers say they are
impressed by job candidates who have excellent communication skills, good grooming habits, and relevant work experience.
career guidance