Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, MP, at the Old Mutual Learnership Programme launch, Cape Town
Mr Omar Abdulla, Strategy Executive for Old Mutual
Shirley Steenekamp, Skills Development and Education and Training Quality Assurer (ETQA) Manager for Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA)
Learners and parents
Thank you very much for the invitation to speak at this morning's function.
This launches addresses one of the key challenges facing South Africa. The creation of skilled persons able to respond to the human resource demands of our thriving economy has received a great deal of attention in the past two years. The young people who are beneficiaries of this programme will be embarking on a learning pathway that has been identified as a scarce skill in the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) programme. They face a positive future on completion of their programme.
The programme is strategically designed to address our skills needs and also to provide real opportunities for personal development for the participants. The education sector has been gearing itself to respond as never before to the government's promise of a better life for all.
Our success will depend on our ability to ensure the acquisition of key skills and the provision of quality education at all levels of our system. This places a special responsibility on the Department of Education and other departments involved in education and training. We have acted on the need to lead in providing effective responses. Recent changes in our curriculum and in institutional restructuring clearly indicate that we are responding.
All levels of the education system have begun to be affected by the need to change and modernise. Recently the skills priorities identified as a part of the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa) have served as critical drivers of our skills development plans. We welcome this Old Mutual initiative, because our experience and that of other countries, is that skills development is best undertaken through strong partnership between government, business, and labour.
The training initiative launched today is a clear demonstration of a partnership commitment. I want to take a few moments of your time to outline other initiatives that illustrate how these partnerships work in skills development. A development that clearly demonstrates this collaborative effort relates to the ongoing debates, discussions and calls for large scale artisan training. This is intended to address the massive infrastructure development commitments of the country over the next many years.
In response the Department of Education (DOE), Department of Labour (DOL) and business representatives have agreed to four training routes that will lead to the provision of certified artisans across a wide spectrum of occupations. They will all be measured and evaluated against a common set of standards.
This multi-pronged approach will allow the qualifications achieved through learnerships, through Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, through recognition of prior learning based on workplace experience, and through the traditional artisan route, to be legitimate training routes towards full and certified artisanship.
The rollout of this approach will now be mapped out and then implemented, through close collaboration between all the partners involved.
The Department of Education's priorities over the next five years, as we seek to address the skills shortage and build the human resources for the future, include interventions in many areas. The first of these is our massive investment in infrastructure and capacity development in our 50 FET colleges to deliver the National Certificate (Vocational) in 12 areas of specialisation.
One of these specialisations is the Finance, Economics and Accounting programme. I appeal to business managers to provide these learners with the opportunity for workplace experience to give depth to the theoretical and practical skills acquired at colleges.
Another is the Information Technology (IT) and Computer Science programme where a partnership with Department of Communications (DOC) and Information Systems, Electronics and Telecommunication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (ISETT SETA) will train 6 000 students next year. Recently in a Jipsa meeting with stakeholders the Deputy President clearly indicated that the current enrolment of almost 2 000 IT students at FET colleges is inadequate. The agreed target of 6 000 enrolments in 2008 will only be achieved through the joint efforts of the DOE, the DOC and the ISETT SETA.
I am also pleased to mention that IT companies such as Cape Town Iron and Steel Works (Cisco) Systems, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems contribute to Information Communication Technology (ICT) development and capacity building both in our colleges and our schools. A further partnership with the construction industry will see the emergence of two centres of excellence for students wanting to work in the booming construction industry.
One here in the Western Cape, at Northlink FET College and the other in Gauteng at Tshwane North College will make a huge contribution towards providing the skills needed in the civil and building industries. The big 5 construction companies in the country have already pledged their commitment to work placements for these students. In addition, a level five qualification is currently under construction for delivery at FET colleges. The focus here will be in the five priority skills areas, for example, Mechanical, Civil and Electrical Engineering, IT, and Finance. These will clearly support the objectives set out by AsgiSA.
These are the kinds of initiatives we desperately need to deliver on our skills development agenda. A very important point to note, for both the young people and parents, is that government has made R600 million available over three years to help young people enrol on the national certificate qualifications at colleges.
The disbursement of these non-repayable bursaries began this year. Applications for these bursaries for study in 2008 will start in September of this year. I appeal to the young people to take advantage of this opportunity to embark on a worthwhile career. Other cross-sectoral interventions, such as the rapid expansion of Early Childhood Development (ECD), particularly in deprived and under-serviced communities, will aim to promote the healthy development of children from an age younger than the school going age.
It is our intention to make sure that the younger the child the greater will be our contribution towards ensuring successful passage into primary education. This is with the expectation that a solid foundation will have been established for equally successful progression into secondary and higher learning.
Early this year, I introduced the Club 100 project, a project which aims to increase the number and learners in schools who write and pass Maths on the higher grade. Schools that produce 100 or more matriculants with HG maths at the end of an academic year receive a sum of R50 000. The sum of money is to assist them towards further improvement of learner performance.
Financial skills, like engineering skills, require high level mathematical competencies. If we do not ensure that these skills are factored into the foundational learning at school level, then we are unlikely to achieve the graduates we need to service the top end skills needs of a growing and increasingly sophisticated economy. Some of the challenges of service delivery can be traced to a lack of much needed financial skills, which leads to either inadequate or inappropriate spending of available funds.
I want to take the opportunity to thank Old Mutual, in recognition of its contribution through the Old Mutual Foundation, for its support of several high schools in the Dinaledi project, our maths and science focus-school programme.
As a donor in the Adopt-a-School project Old Mutual will, for three years from 2007 to 2009, make monetary contributions to ensure adequate resourcing for the delivery of science, maths and technology in at least five high schools, provide incentives for the targets set in terms of learner performance and contribute towards good corporate and financial governance of the schools.
To achieve the targets set out the donor will closely monitor progress and support the schools over the three year period. Old Mutual's involvement in this project is yet another affirmation of its commitment to a better and brighter future for all South Africans!
In closing, I want to thank the many parents, or guardians, who are here to support the learners as they begin their course of study. Your presence is not simply a show of support but is also an indication of your belief in the value of education in the lives of our young people.
I thank you.