Sector education and training authorities (Setas) have not failed and are expected to be more successful following consolidation in the system, higher education minister Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday.
“I think it would be incorrect to say that Setas have generally failed,” he told a media briefing to announce the new Seta “landscape”.
Everybody accepted there had been unevenness, but overall, “we could have made a much better impact”, he said.
This did not mean the weaknesses that had been there in some of the Setas should be overlooked.
“But, actually, it’s been the weakness of the system, the education and training system in the first instance,” Nzimande said.
The anomaly of locating the skills development instruments in one department, and the formal education and training institutions in another, had been the single biggest problem. Both would now be brought into the higher education and training department.
For instance, one would find that in the skills development area there were surplus funds, but huge shortages for supporting programmes in further education and training (FET) colleges.
“That’s been a huge anomaly, which now we are in a better position to address, as a country, for the first time.
The big difficulty was getting a closer alignment between Setas and especially public FETs and universities of technology. But, much more critically, helping young people get workplace experience.
Nzimande said the performance of Setas was of great concern and much needed to be done to improve their effectiveness. He would soon appoint a ministerial task team to focus on improving Seta performance, as well as ensuring Setas had the capacity to achieve the objectives set by the department.
Among other things, Seta activities had to be refocused through the new national skills development strategy, which would be announced by the end of the month. It was the framework within which all Setas would operate.
Nzimande announced that for the next five-year period — 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2016 — 12 Setas would be re-established with no change. Six Setas would be re-established with minimal standard industrial classification code transfers. Two would receive sub-sectors from another Seta. Three would be abolished and replaced through amalgamations.
Nzimande said he was sympathetic to the many arguments for fewer Setas, but this was a goal to work towards over the next five years.
In a statement later, Democratic Alliance spokesman Andricus van der Westhuizen, said Nzimande had missed an opportunity to shift education funding to “where it works”.
Considering the country’s massive skills deficit and the millions of unemployed desperate for training, axing three Setas and realigning various others served only to perpetuate the misguided and unproductive approach adopted in recent years by the department.
Nzimande’s “stubborn allegiance” to the failed Seta system, despite its dismal performance, made it more difficult for workers to get the skills they needed, he said.
The state had a crucial role to play in providing skills training, but as a facilitator, rather than the controlling agent, in the relationship between industry and education.
The Setas should be dissolved and the money spent on FET colleges, which could work effectively with businesses to train workers, he said. — Sapa