South Africa’s ability to reverse rising levels of unemployment and poverty depends on its progress to deliver training and skills development programmes that address today’s challenges.
This is according to Deputy President David Mabuza, who was speaking in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) at the Sedibeng TVET College in Vereeniging, Gauteng.
“Apart from those in the schooling and training system, the reality is that we have an unsustainably high number of unemployed young people. Something drastic needs to happen,” he stressed on Thursday.
Citing the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) data, he said the country’s unemployment rate stood at 33.9% in the second quarter of the year, with almost 12.3 million jobless people.
“Most concerning is that 35.7% of youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are classified as not being in employment, education, or training.”
He has since urged the Council to put measures in place to ensure that those who have lost employment and learning opportunities can bounce back.
According to the Deputy President, this could be made possible through a package of skills development interventions that will create viable options in life.
“What the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that certain jobs may not come back as we know them.”
He said the Council needs to look at working with industry to design targeted skills programmes that will facilitate the absorption of youth into entrepreneurship and employment.
“Many a time, we keep deliberating on our challenges, and we make undertakings to change course, but very little is done to implement all the good resolutions that we take to change the situation.”
To this end, he called on the body to finalise the programme of action immediately.
He urged members to reflect on whether their work will produce skills that are appropriate for citizens to thrive in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
“Instead of trying to do everything, we should reflect on how we prioritise and select a portfolio of interrelated national high impact interventions or projects to deliver tangible results for our country.”
More critically, the Deputy President said the Council needed to mobilise necessary financial resources from government and the private sector to drive these initiatives.
“How do we ensure that the HRDC strategy responds to the current job seekers and those pursuing entrepreneurship?”
He emphasised that the programme of action should lead to the realisation of a better environment for learning and training.
“With proper education and training, we can move forward as a country.”
He told the delegates that the evolving nature of doing business has set in motion the shifting content of skills and capabilities needed to build and grow a sustained modern economy.
“It requires a quick paradigm shift and reorientation to realign the content of our curriculum offerings and skills development programmes so that we can respond to the demands of industry and the economy.”
In addition, he said the 4IR, National Digital and Future Skills Strategy provides a critical framework for inclusive partnerships between industry, labour, higher education institutions and society to imagine and build a new set of skills and capabilities for the country.
“From the foundations of basic education to tertiary levels, key resources and infrastructure must be provided to accelerate the provision of relevant and appropriate skills.”
He said he was encouraged by the Sedibeng TVET College with prides itself on new cutting-edge research and technology in disciplines like mechatronics.”
He thinks that the combination of mechanical engineering, electronics and computer systems will go a long way in developing the skills required as a country and growing the economy.
“As the Council, we need to ensure that all our TVET Colleges have strategic partnerships with industry players across all economic sectors.”
Meanwhile, he said the country needed to bridge the digital inequality gap, especially among unskilled and low-income citizens, especially amongst women and girls.
He raised concerns about the 750 000 learners who did not return to school due to the pandemic.
“These increasing dropout rates, compound the already high number of young people that are not in education, employment, and training.”
He also highlighted how COVID-19 exacerbated the issue of the digital divide in society.
“While other schools in affluent areas were able to continue learning during COVID-19, those who have no access to ICT have been disadvantaged, thus lagging, hence our call for the mobilisation of requisite resources from the government and private sector to jointly drive these initiatives.”