31 Jul 1998

31 July 1998

Skills Development Bill

The Labour Ministry has tabled a major Bill that will give new impetus
to quality training in South Africa. The Skills Development Bill aims to
set in motion a skills revolution as the central part of South Africa`s
drive for growth in employment and productivity.

The Remnants of Apartheid

Under Apartheid learning and working were regarded as separate processes.
This is not true at all. One does not stop learning when one starts working.
More and more workplaces strive to be learning organisations offering
ongoing education and training. Their training programmes reflect their
current business priorities and their changing environments and should
enable them to keep up with, and move ahead of, competitors.

Large companies worldwide make large investments in research and development.
Increasingly they form partnerships with universities and technikons. For
too long South Africa was sheltered from this necessity because the Apartheid
economy was built behind tariff barriers which made it expensive for other
countries to sell their goods and services here. In turn, they made it
difficult for us to sell our goods and services outside our borders. Nowadays
South African companies are forced to spend more to stay competitive
in the marketplace.

South Africa`s largest industrial companies continue to spend far less
on employee training than their overseas counter-parts, according to a
survey by Cape Town based Labour Research Services. Most of them spend
only 2,5 per cent of their payroll on training. The international average
is between 4 and 7 per cent.

South Africa has a poor skills record because of the poor quality of
Apartheid education the majority of our people received, the irrelevance
of much of the previous training funded by government and the low level
of investments into training by companies. This greatly hampers growth
in productivity, new investments and employment opportunities.

Introducing a New Era

The Skills Development Bill will:

  • develop the skills of our workforce
  • increase the quality of working life for workers
  • improve the productivity of the workplace
  • promote self-employment and the delivery of social services
  • encourage firms to be active learning environments and provide experience
    to new workers
  • improve the employment prospects of the previously disadvantaged through
    education and training.

Aligning the Bill with the South Africans Qualification Authority Act

  • promote the quality of learning in and for the labour market
  • give organised employers and workers greater responsibility for ensuring
    relevant training.

The objects of the Bill are to:

  • establish a stronger institutional and financial framework then previously
    existed under the old Act
  • replace the National Training Board with the National Skills Authority
    (NSA), a ministerial advisory body that will see to it that national skills
    development strategies, plans, priorities and targets are set and adhered
  • replace industry training boards with sector education and training
    authorities (SETAs) which will develop sector skills plans that conform
    to the national skills strategies and targets.

The Bill also introduces:

  • a compulsory levy grant equal to 1 per cent of the payroll of
    all companies to be collected by SETAs and a national collection agency
    assigned by the Minister. Government is also bound by the Bill to pay 1
    per cent of its personnel budget for skills development. Twenty per cent
    of the collected funds will be paid into a National Skills Fund (NSF).
    The rest will be paid as grants to firms that already carry out accredited
  • two learning programmes. The first is learnerships which incorporate
    traditional apprenticeships, and include structured learning and work experience
    that lead to qualifications in areas where skills are needed or opportunities
    exist in the labour market. This will assist young unemployed people to
    become employed and workers to improve their skills. The second are skills
    programmes that should also meet quality and relevance criteria to qualify
    for grants from the NSF or SETAs.

Skill Development Planning Unit

The Director-General must establish this Unit which is responsible for
coordinating planning for skills development. It will do research and analyse
the labour market to determine the skills development needs for the public
and private sectors of the economy South Africa as a whole.

Employment Services

The Employment Services Unit will assist workers, employers and training
providers and register work-seekers to enter special education programmes,
find employment or start self-employment projects. It will also register
vacancies and work opportunities. All such services must be registered
through the DG.

Dealing with the New Challenges

  • Measures introduced by the ANC-led Government through this Bill will
    create and encourage independence amongst the workforce. They do not perpetuate
    the culture of dependence nurtured by the previous regime.
  • The SAQA will ensure that the quality of all learning in our country
    is greatly improved.
  • The Bill will make it easier for people to move in and out of the learning
    system, and easier for them to be recognised for any learning acquired
    outside a formal institution.
  • The National Qualification Framework will ensure that all learners
    learn both the content of their specific subjects and to become lifelong
  • The Skills Development Bill will ensure that the skills acquired include
    the ability to adapt to the ever changing learning and working demands
    of the marketplace.

The ANC Commitment

  • The ANC insists that the emphasis of higher education and training
    must be shifted to equip people with the skills to do a job and the ability
    to adapt to lifelong learning. We must tell students that a matric or university
    degree does not mean that they must stop learning.
  • Unlike the NP and the DP, the ANC believes that everyone in South Africa
    has a contribution to make. We all have a social responsibility to work
    towards a competitive economy that participates in the global economy from
    a position of strength.
  • Instead of the reckless rhetoric of the opposition, we need people,
    from all sectors, to roll up their sleeves and get on with the hard work
    that will bring economic growth, employment and general upliftment to our
  • This Bill is yet another brick in the ANC Government`s reconstruction
    and rebuilding campaign that will transform the South African workplace.
    It is a re-affirmation of the Government`s commitment to the eradication
    of unfair discrimination in the workplace, unemployment and poverty.
  • The ANC, step by step, is making South Africa a better place for everyone.