Myriad of training issues

In 1990 Numsa commissioned its first Training Research and Development Group (RDG). It involved 26 workers and two officials in three months of intensive research into the needs, progress and problems experienced by Numsa members in all sectors on issues related to training and education.

It’s now time to revive this to assess the impact of these new skills development implementation regulations against our training resolutions. It must also speedily establish training structures at all levels of the organisation to be able to engage with the unfolding developments.

These are the projects that must be assessed:

* Learnerships for employed workersThe National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) is instructing employers to implement learnerships for employed workers because currently most programmes are only benefiting the unemployed. All Merseta chambers must develop clear plans on how to do this. The auto chamber has set the pace and agreed to implement this objective. Parties are discussing the issue of training pools of +- 30 workers per company. These training pools will take the place of workers while they are being trained. Hopefully the programme will start early in 2006.

Technical ABETThe vigorous and extensive discussions raised by the minister of education, Naledi Pandor and other setas on the current ABET curriculum suggests major amendments which could completely change the image and outlook of ABET in South Africa.

The new regulations which are at the developmental phase, are attempting to address the following problems

The stigma that ABET is a racial issue and it’s for blacks only
The current curriculum which takes a learner on average 4 years to complete level 1 to level 4.
ABET learners who are struggling to participate in NQF qualifications, because currently ABET is academically inclined whilst on the other side learnerships are technically inclined
Employers’ focus is on prioritising production and they give less support to training initiatives.
The main aim of technical ABET is to align ABET with learnerships. This will allow a learner to acquire NQF level 1. It will also be user-friendly, focus on improving access, participation and increase company communication levels.

WSP and ATR submission datesThe current regulations on the new National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) implementation put pressure on the unions’ mandate-seeking processes. They force the unions to be pro-active. The performance measures on the implementation will be judged on three priorities: signatures, time frames/dates and equity targets.

From next year, June 30 will be the submission date for both Workplace Skills Plans (WSP) and the Annual Training Reports (ATR). There will be no extensions granted regardless of the reasons. Submissions can be made with or without the union’s signature and investigations will be done to establish the reasons.

Workplace experiential or in-service trainingThe changes to the new discretionary grants regulations benefit students and workers from Technikons and Technical Colleges who are doing engineering-related courses and who are required to do practical or in-service training within the Merseta scope.

They will be assisted to do workplace practical training free of charge. Merseta will pay companies that are accredited trainers, R12 500 per trainee per semester to provide training to the unemployed. For example P1 and P2 training set down by technikons requires trainees to undergo six months practical training in the workplace. However, only a limited number can be assisted per semester due to the capacity of the companies. It will be on a first come, first served basis. At the moment learners are not getting paid but Numsa is to discuss this issue further in September.

SMME Exclusion from paying Skills LevyIn his 2005 State of the Nation address, the president of the country pronounced that there would be a review of the regulatory framework as it applies to small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) before the end of this year and that they would be excluded from paying skills levies.

Immediately after that in the National Skills Development Strategy Conference (NSDS) in March, the Minister of Labour reaffirmed the President’s sentiments.

However, it also allows the voluntary participation by employers who have been treating this levy as a tax without training the workers. It suggests that we will continue with the so-called first and second economy, which is characterised by skilled and unskilled workers

Merseta currently has 13 500 registered SMME companies. Most are in the metals and motor chambers. Since the President’s and Minister of Labour’s announcements, the SA Revenue Service (SARS) has refused to collect levies from SMMEs.

Merseta’s interpretation of NSDS objectivesThe Merseta has set out its targets in terms of the NSDS objectives. See below.

NSDS Objective and Success Indicator:

MERSETA 5 year target:

MERSETA 2005-2006 target:

By March 2010 at least 700 000 workers have achieved at least ABET Level 4.

50 000

10 000 in ABET programs of which 3 000 achieve ABET Level 4.

Objective 2 (employed):By March 2010, at least 125 000 workers assisted to enter and at least 50% successfully complete programmes, including learnerships and apprenticeships, leading to basic entry, intermediate and high level scare skills. Impact of assistance measured.

15 000 workers on learnerships, apprenticeships or skills programmes: of which 7500 have completed programs.

3 000 on programmes in total: 1 400 completed.

Objective 4 (unemployed):By March 2010, at least 125 000 unemployed people assisted to enter and at least 50% successfully complete programmes, including learnerships and apprenticeships, leading to basic entry, intermediate and high level scare skills. Impact of assistance measured.

15 000 workers on learnerships, apprenticeships or skills programs: of which 7 500 have completed programmes.

3 000 on programmes in total: 1 400 completed.

For employed

Learnerships: 9 000 in learnerships; 4 500 completed

Learnerships: 1 250 in learnerships; 650 completed

For unemployed

Learnerships: 9 000: 4 500

Learnerships: 1 250 in learnerships; 650 completed

Discussion questions:

Are these initiatives adequately answering the training problems that Numsa has identified?
What new initiatives do we need to solve our problems?
Do all your fellow workers have the equivalent of ABET level 4 (Standard 7). If not do you have ABET programmes in your company? If not, why not?
What do you think of the writer’s proposal to set up structures at all levels and to revive the Training RDG?