The CEO of Telkom, Mr. Sizwe Nxasana, CEO of ISETT SETA, Mr. Oupa
Mopaki, Distinguished Guests, Programme Director, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Friends and Comrades,
I am delighted to be with you today on this important occasion - to
stand witness to the achievement of this key milestone - the beginning
of a promising future for a group of previously unemployed young people
as well as a group of existing workers whose careers are being
catapulted forward by this exciting new opportunity.
In my work as the Minister of Labour, nothing gives me a greater
sense of pleasure than seeing people?s dreams fulfilled, especially
young people who are full of dreams and potential to take on the
world.You will forgive me for sounding so excited - for as a parent who
wishes only the best for my children I can share in the excitement that
the families of these young people must also be feeling.
As we savour this moment together let us not forget the President?s
Growth and Development Summit held in June last year that helped to
focus all of our minds on the imperative to work together to find
common solutions to our country?s challenges, not least of which is the
blight of youth unemployment.
This occasion stands testimony to the commitments we made at that
Summit, where we - labour, business, government and the community
sector - signed an agreement to strengthen our partnership by
accelerating the intake of new entrants into learnership programmes as
a form of building skills and creating employment opportunities for our
youth, and thereby contributing to the growth of our economy and the
alleviation of poverty in our communities.
We undertook together with our social partners, not to sit on our
laurels while our youth - matriculants and graduates alike - languish
on the streets - and we undertook to provide our young people with
opportunities to learn skills which would help to make them more
employable or more able to build employment for themselves.
I wish to commend Telkom for taking on the challenge - you are
making a great start here today and I trust that as one of our biggest
South African corporates, that this experience will be extremely
positive and will prove to be but the beginning for you in this
important area of people development. This is an example of a true
?people?s contract? between government, business, community and labour
and it will hopefully lay the basis for further collaborative work in
future for the development and betterment of this wonderful country of
It is perhaps hard to believe that it is only three short years ago
that I launched the country?s first National Skills Development
Strategy - a strategy that set our SETAs and levy / grant system,
introduced a year earlier, to work on achieving a clearly articulated
set of national priorities.
Today we have evidence that the strategy is working, and by
implication, so too are the institutions and incentives that we set
into place to make all this possible. Without the grants that the levy
makes possible, and without the work of the ISSET SETA Board and staff
- none of this would be happening. Let us remember this when next we
read the jibes of our detractors in the press!
Today is evidence that our combined efforts have not been in vain well
done to the ISSET SETA team who have worked hard to make this
The ISSET SETA?s progress has been especially striking in relationship
to the implementation of learnerships, with more than 3 000 learners
already signed up for ICT learnerships - putting ISETT SETA almost 1
000 learners ahead of its March 2004 target, agreed with my department
a year ago.
Well done to the team. Now, through learnerships such as the one
being launched today, the ISSET SETA is within easy reach of its total
five-year target of 3 500 learners by March next year - thus
contributing to our national target of 80 000 young unemployed people
in learnerships next year.
Today we are celebrating the start of learnerships for some 360
learners in Telkom. These learners will be inducted into three
different learnership programmes including the Telkom Call Center
Learnerships, where learners will be trained in the company?s Centre
for Learning and then placed for experiential learning at Telkom?s Call
Centres in Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Gauteng.
I?m particularly pleased to hear of this, as my colleague the
Minister of Trade and Industry, Alec Erwin, confidently informs me that
this sector has a great potential to grow and provide many jobs in this
country. To these learners I can only say that your future seems
Another group of learners will be placed on Project Management
Learnerships, I?m told. This group consists of 100 existing Telkom
workers who will be learning the skills they need to manage operational
and business change. And yet a third group of learners will be
embarking on a Graduate Internship Programme. This is very interesting;
I?m told that Telkom aims to equip young unemployed science and
engineering graduates with ICT competencies.
This kind of bridging from learning to work will surely make all the
difference to people who have already learnt so much, and who need only
a small helping hand in order to be able to make a large contribution
to the workplaces that they eventually enter. That programme will be
kick-started in June 2004 with 100 learners I believe.
It is clear that once these people have acquired these skills they are
not going to be the only one?s to benefit. Telkom?s needs these skills
for it to do business. Learnerships are a classic ?win - win? - as both
business and learners will benefit.
But to the learners this is clearly a stepping-stone to a brighter
future, and an opportunity that has sparked the smiles that we see in
this room today. And I believe that at this rate we will easily have
sparked the 80 000 smiles by March of next year which I targeted when I
launched the National Skills Development Strategy back in 2001.
Indeed as South Africa prepares to celebrate 10 years of democracy;
we can look back in pride on what has been achieved with regards to the
implementation of the National Skills Development Strategy. This
democracy might still be in its infant stages, yet we have set the
benchmark in the world. Our country is looked upon as a leader amongst
its peers. We are the envy of many nations, lest we forget that.
But a long road still lies ahead. The Information Communication
Technology (ICT) sector in our country reflects the skewed landscape of
ownership, control and access to resources between those who where
advantaged and disadvantaged by the previous regime. A huge digital
divide still exists between the rich and poor, black and white, rural
and urban population in our country.
As we look at the skills strategy through the lens of this
particular sector, it is clear that its ultimate goal must be to narrow
and eventually to close this divide - on two fronts - both within the
country and as well as between this country, and the continent of which
it is part, and the more developed world more generally.
And of course these two objectives are linked - it is through
working internally that gradually our standing internationally will
improve. We are not naﶥ, we face an enormous challenge - because
currently the divide is growing rather than narrowing, but that cannot
dampen our resolve to find better ways to tackle this daunting task
together. And today we are witnessing one such innovation, but clearly
it cannot be the only one.
A direct correlation exists between the ICT capability of our
country and the levels of education and skills of its people. There is
therefore an urgent imperative to accelerate the performance of more
and more youngsters at school, particularly in the areas of science,
mathematics and language, so that they can be well prepared to
undertake post-school learning linked to new challenges of our age.
Without this basis, too many will be assigned the role of
?backbenchers? with regards to the many opportunities that are embodies
in the ICT revolution. And inevitably the majority of these
?backbenchers? will be from communities that were previously
disadvantaged by the apartheid system - black people, women, especially
black women, and people living with disabilities.
These communities were systematically denied access to quality
education in the past and have yet to achieve parity in order to be
able to participate in, benefit from and ultimately contribute to our
increasingly advanced technological world.
It was therefore fitting that when the skills strategy was first
established the issue of equity took centre stage - and may I add that
this very important issue remains very close to my heart.
Let me use this opportunity to remind you all that as government we
remain steadfastly committed to ensuring that the equity targets that I
set for the Skills Strategy are met, namely that at least 85% of the
beneficiaries of training should be black, 54% female and 4 percent
people with disabilities. And I am concerned to note that nationally we
are trailing on these indicators, particularly in the areas of
recruiting people with disabilities.
I hope that amongst the 360 learners we are celebrating today, at
least 4% come from this group! And I trust that it is not necessary for
me to say that equity for people with disability must go beyond window
dressing. We would like to begin to see people with disabilities having
expanded access to higher skill occupations such as those linked to the
ICT sector and being given opportunities for promotion into senior
positions in these sectors - and not just being stereotyped into menial
tasks such as switchboard operating.
I was happy to see that this matter was addressed in the recent ICT
Sector Summit as one of the key challenges facing the sector. So I
assume it is not necessary for me to remind this audience of the
imperative to address the full range of equity beneficiaries.
The next challenge lies in the broader area of Broad Based Black
Economic Empowerment. Only last week I was with the Banking Sector at
which learnerships in support of the Finance Charter were being
launched. I noted with interest that they are committed to achieving
some stretch targets in relation to black procurement, but that the
achievement of these targets is conditional upon there being a similar
commitment in the ICT sector! So the challenge is clear! I trust that
the ISETT SETA is ready .
I came here today specifically to congratulate revolutionaries who
share my passion for building South Africa as a society with a rising
base of knowledge and skills - knowledge and skills which can be put to
work to end poverty and create jobs.
Let me take this opportunity to thank Telkom in particular today,
and other employers more generally, as well as the providers and most
importantly, the young women and men of our country who are the leading
charge and are already enjoying the benefits of these new exciting
I thank you for your commitment and hard work to date. Lets continue
with our efforts- together we are sure to succeed.
And, by the way, just a reminder that we are just nine days away
from that crucial date -April 14th - so in case you are in danger of
forgetting, please remember to vote on the 14th. It?s not my place to
tell you who to vote or not to vote for - your vote is your secret, so
is mine - but always remember that democracy is your birthright and is
also at the core of the contract we have been speaking about.
It legitimates all our work and creates the environment in which
other things become possible.Democracy is, if you will, the framing
contract - we fought for it so hard and so long, let us not take it for
granted now. It lays the basis for everything we are doing here
It?s your democracy and its? mine; therefore let?s defend it with
the same vigour and determination as we have fought for it.Together we
can and will do more.
I thank you.