01 March 2010

Quality Council for Trades and Occupations

Training on right path with quality council

Blade Nzimande, Business Day, Johannesburg, 26 February 2010

IF SKILLS development and training hold the answers for so many of our social and economic problems, why don’t we just do it? The reason is poor-quality training can prove just as deadly as no training, and could be the difference between unemployment and decent work.

The launch of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations this week is an important step in the skills development revolution we have initiated in government by ensuring high- quality workplace training and by bringing the needs of industry closer to the education and training system.

Learning at and for work is essential if workplaces are to become more productive, if workers are to rise to more decent jobs, and if the unemployed and community members are to initiate and improve ventures in the informal economy. This dimension of learning is also vital for graduates who, without workplace learning, are more likely to remain unemployed.

My department aims to improve entry points into and pathways through the learning system, and enhance the quality of learning wherever it takes place. The council will ensure training and skills development initiatives respond adequately to social and economic needs. It will ensure qualifications are not only linked to labour market needs but are also linked to, and build on, qualifications from other institutions. More learners need to proceed to the skills development system and the workplace seamlessly, with easy pathways across different learning sites. We see the council as the glue in this.

The council will also have to develop and sustain public confidence in the quality assurance of skills development. We have some fine traditions that we must cherish and nurture, and we have some bad habits to weed out. The council must act as a guide as we strive to improve the quality of our skills development system and ensure the competence of learners who have been certified through the Occupational Qualifications Framework. We must continue to develop a National Qualifications Framework that includes recognition of prior learning.

It is evident that too little research has been done on workplace learning and its theoretical underpinnings. The council must help to reverse this. It must also find ways to recognise the skills of those who have worked for years and learnt a great deal.

Critically, the council must work with other industry players to assist young people to undertake workplace learning so they can achieve employment. In this way the council becomes the gateway in ensuring workplace learning gets its proper credentials, and the lives of ordinary workers are revolutionised.

Building a culture of ongoing learning in our workforce is critical for a vibrant economy whose benefits are shared by all.

We are much clearer as government today that our education and training policy needs to serve the youth as they have a lifetime ahead of them and much to contribute. The statistics of young people not in education, training or employment — 2,8-million people — provides a stark reminder of the urgency of this task.

College training is not enough. If it is not complemented by workplace learning, we could find the youngsters we work so hard to train remain unemployed. Finding ways to align the workplace qualifications with those provided at institutions will be a major help in addressing this problem.

The council can also help by ensuring workplace learning is of a high quality so those taking trade tests and similar exit assessments pass at an increasing rate and swell the ranks of our skilled workforce.

With the launch of the council, we will for the first time since the advent of our democracy be able to say: we are doing training and doing it right.

  • Dr Blade Nzimande is Minister of Higher Education and Training