Skills authority told to bring Setas in line with objectives

Jenni Evans, News24

Cape Town - The National Skills Authority (NSA) was told to “concentrate” and bring the country's Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) in line with its objective of getting people learning on the job in critical skills.

In an awkward briefing to Parliament's education committee, representatives of the authority were chided for not being familiar with acronyms in their own field of oversight and were told that “consequence management” might be in the pipeline if they don't shift their focus from long-term planning to dealing with urgent current problems instead.

Trying to shift the focus from the NSA's presentation on how it was working towards forming its “business case” with the board only being in action for less than a year, committee chairperson Pinky Phosa said: “They [Setas] received around R30bn - serious money - from the Department of Higher Education and Training - are you not capacitated now [for oversight]?.

Many companies have complained that the money that they are forced to contribute to Setas is going down the drain.

DA MP Belinda Bozzoli also took the men doing the presentation to task for addressing male colleagues by their surnames and academic titles, but referring simply to colleague Sally Mangubewa as ''Sally''.

Proceedings also went into the double blink zone when MP Danny Kekana responded to an anecdote of skilled black women being poached from public enterprises to the private sector because they “needed” the R3m salary they were offered, leaving vacancies in public enterprises.

Bozzoli had scoffed, “Because they need it?” and Kekana replied that she did not understand the pressures from relatives in need that a black graduate faces, and that they could not simply study and then go and “eat their money” like Bozzoli, a former Wits deputy vice chancellor, could.

Concerns raised

Phosa, a social worker, drew proceedings back to the nitty gritties of the Setas and heard that in theory, there should be enough companies working with the Sector Training Authorities to be able to take somebody from university or college and put them on a learnership to gain the work skills they need.

Each Seta is governed by the NSA board but in the 2013 to 2015 period under review, three Setas - Local Government, Safety and Security, and Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport were placed under administration.

The auditor general has raised concerns over lack of compliance with legislation, lack of internal controls and the dreaded “consequence management” not being implemented in some Setas.

During the period under review for example, the target on artisan development for enrolled learners for 2013/2014 was 29 383 and the Setas only achieved 22,611. Their 2014/15 year improved with the target being 27,291 and an achievement of 25 008.

The Construction sector failed to enrol the 16 000 learners it was supposed to - bringing in only 4 234 artisan learners into the sector.

Energy and Water was supposed to enrol 3 700 learners but only managed 897 and Health and Welfare and Public Services Setas achieved below 50% of their planned targets.

Another issue was government not hiring candidate attorneys and candidate accountants - unlike the private sector.

The Setas that performed well in the period under review included the Chemical Industries and Training Authority and the Mining Qualifications Authority.

But not having enough money was raised as a problem for not putting enough people through the training programmes that would lead to them receiving qualifications.