Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize: Lessons for Skills Planning dialogue

Opening remarks by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize during the occasion of Lessons for Skills Planning: A Dialogue

1. Key persons in the meeting

Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Dr Sidi Ould Salem

Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, His Excellency Ambassador Mohammed Hannani

Director-General, Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr. Qonde;

Chief Executive Officer of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Dr Crain Soudien,

DHET DDG: Dr Sishi, Chairperson of the session,

Labour Market Intelligence Project (LMIP) Research Team

CEO’s and Representatives of Business organisations; representatives of Professional Bodies; SETAs;

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen.

2. Introduction

Today we have an honour to be joined by the delegation from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania led by his Excellency, Dr Sidi Ould Salem, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The main aim of their visit is to dialogue on the two countries’ policies of post school education, with special interest in possibly developing and offering programmes of excellence in scientific, technical and vocational training as well as English language training.

Today’s august dialogue offers us another opportunity to share on possible approaches to contribute, as the sector, to projections on labor market skills for the future.

Six years ago, the Department entered into an agreement with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) to establish a project called the Labour Market Intelligence Project (LMIP). I am reliably informed that most parts of this project have been completed and the final consolidated report will be handed over in the next five months. The other component which was undertaken by Wits University, the skills forecast model has already been completed. The HSRC component is planned for completion in March 2018. The next steps will be the release of a report on occupations in high demand and the consolidated skills planning mechanism.

3. Importance of Skills Planning

The recent statistics produced by Stats SA shows that the unemployment rate is 27.7%, the highest figure since September 2003. The economy and labour markets today demand high-end technical skills such as though this structural mismatch between labour supply and demand is widely regarded as constraining economic growth and development, and a barrier to social inclusion and poverty reduction.

For far too long, the tools we have used to prioritise skills in this country have been based on a limited understanding and analysis of the character, structure, and shifts in the economy and the labour market.

However, the DHET and its entities are faced by immediate questions to determine where there are skills mismatches, shortages and gaps, to inform planning and funding decisions across the post-school education and training system. And we need to understand what qualifications and skills training are required to ensure that the complex and changing needs of society and the economy are met.

While we acknowledge the importance of the need to expand access to Higher Education, our approach to skills planning needs to take into account the challenges of economic growth and inclusive development in South Africa. Skills planning should not only focus on a small number of skilled people in the workplace, but also on the unemployed, the youth, the low-skilled, the marginalized, and those in vulnerable forms of employment, including the self-employed.

The dilemma facing policy makers is how to respond to these diverse sets of development and decide how resources should be targeted for inclusive skills development. These imperatives may seem paradoxical, but each is essential to achieve a more inclusive growth and development trajectory.

The economy must also respond to the twin challenges of participating in a globally competitive environment which requires a high skills base, and a local context that creates low-wage jobs (with supported training) to absorb the large numbers who are unemployed or in vulnerable jobs.

There is a real need, in South Africa, to achieve a better match between the supply and demand for skills, to improve productivity, and to improve social and economic outcomes for individuals and communities. The use of labour market intelligence (LMI), linked to planning, is an important instrument � though not the only instrument � for achieving this.

The intention of government in developing a skills planning mechanism, is underpinned by the effective analysis and interpretation of labour market intelligence (LMI) to address the continuing skills mismatches and imbalances which are widely seen as a constraint on economic growth and development and on the achievement of government’s broader goals of social inclusion and poverty reduction.

It is essential that we know what we need to measure and how these measures relate to each other in order to provide a basis for public policies and tools to ensure that:

we have the skilled people we need to meet the demands of a changing economy;

skills developments are demand led;

TVET Colleges and Universities are responsive to demand;

skills supply and demand are effectively aligned;

the employment outcomes of education and training are positive.

The 2013 White Paper on Post-School Education and Training observes that ‘although South Africa has put in place a range of ambitious measures to improve skills planning, the system has neither produced good information about skills needs, nor increased the quality of provision in areas needed by the economy’.

It concludes that the limited credibility and impact of the current sector skills planning system is due to inadequate research capacity; a lack of economics, labour market and industry expertise; poor data management; and a lack of planning expertise. LMI is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

‘Who’ acquires skills is important, especially in a society and economy which is deeply unequal and where reducing poverty and inequality are key strategic policy goals. Consequently, increasing skills acquisition amongst the least well off in particular, is a vital dimension of increasing skills supply.

The role of an institutional mechanism for skills planning is to provide the information, analysis and measures so as to enable the identification and measurement of the extent, and ways in which, skills supply is ‘deficient’, and to identify possible high-level interventions to address these.

4. Uses Of Labour Market Intelligence Project (LMIP)

The LMIP has supported the Department in many ways. One of the most widely used outputs of the LMIP has been the list of Occupations in High Demand which has been used to direct funding and enrolment planning. The LMIP has also supported the Department in conceptualizing issues around skills planning and has provided a wealth of evidence that can support planning and policy in the Department.

The Department has already begun using the LMIP outputs in its work e.g. it has used LMIP outputs to respond to Parliamentary Questions and has also helped in the Presentations by the Department in various forums. The evidence from LMIP has been shared with Universities and TVET Colleges to assist them with Institutional level planning.

I would like to thank the HSRC research team for their unwavering perseverance and commitment to the LMIP Project. They have worked hard and spent many sleepless nights producing key reports for the project. Thank you once again for your work and commitment.

5. The OECD Project

At the invitation of the OECD, the Department has partnered with the OECD on a project called Getting Skills Right. The presence of Ms. Marieke Vandeweyer a representative from the OECD here today signals the OECD commitment to the skills agenda of our country, and the knowledge enterprise required to shape an informed agenda for the development of a skilled and capable workforce.

The JPMorgan Chase Foundation is providing financial support for this project as part of its New Skills at Work programme, which aims to identify strategies and support data-driven solutions that help improve labour market infrastructure and develop the skilled workforce globally.

I wish to thank the OECD for collaborating with the Department of Higher Education and Training to analyze the existence of skills imbalances in South Africa and the policies aimed at addressing them.

6. Conclusion

In closing, then, I would like to thank the Wits and the HSRC research teams for their firm determination and commitment to this project.

We are looking forward to learning about the findings, recommendations and the lessons that have been learnt through the LMIP project, as well as the OECD study on skills in South Africa.

Honourable Minister, Dr Salem, we will also share with you the findings, recommendations and the lessons of the report for your consideration as part of our cooperation agreements.

I trust that you are as excited as I am about learning about the evidence-based skills planning, and enjoy the presentations.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa