Address by the Minister of Labour, Honourable MMS Mdladlana on the occasion of the opening of the LEKAMVA Academy Construction Centre of Excellence at BELHAR, Cape Town on
27 February 2009
Master of Ceremonies
Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the Council
Leadership of the National Black Contractors and Allied Trades Forum
Leadership of the Northlink College
The CEO and Leadership of the Construction SETA
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to celebrate with you this particularly exciting occasion to launch the LEKAMVA ACADEMY Construction Council of Excellence.
The ANC government through the Department of Labour, in partnership with stakeholders, were indeed visionary when we engineered in our NSDS 2005 - 2010, the need to promote Institutes of Sectoral or Occupational Excellence (ISOE’s). An ISOE is a hub of relevant actors, industry, providers, and our skills intermediaries, the SETA who act collectively bring their strengths and resources together to ensure a seamless transition between learning and employment. By their very nature ISOE’s – being based on partnerships, provides for skills development which is meaningful to all the parties, clear exit opportunities to the learners, and are able to multiply our efforts tenfold! That is why they are labelled “Excellent”!
I therefore wish to start by commending the partnership by the Black Construction Council, the National Black Contractors and Allied Trades Forum (NABCAT), the Northlink College, and the CETA to establish the LEKAMVA ACADEMY Construction Centre of Excellence” here in Belhar Cape Town. My intelligence informed me that CETA contributed in the region of about R30,6 milion. I am sure somebody will tell me how much or in what way other partners are going to contribute in this process. I also want to commend you for specifically choosing to address the skills development needs of previously disadvantaged sectors of mainly blacks (i.e coloureds; blacks and Indian), youth, disabled; and the unemployed.
This initiative is testimony to the dynamic nature of the South African skills development environment. Even though, a decade ago we inherited a labour market that was segregated, with very low skills levels, coupled with an incoherent approach to skills development, we are now in a position to record albeit with challenges, an established skills development system. In fact, our Skills Development framework, and its supporting systems, the SETAs and the NSF, remain on a continuing path of improvement. Beyond the successes achieved with NSDS I, we already celebrated the success of NSDS II during our Skills Conference held during October 2008. The NSDS 2005 -2010 fourth year implementation report suggest that we will exceed most of the targets that we have set for ourselves, come March 2010. Sadly, however, so many, and very transformative interventions, our success stories during our decade of skills development history are not well known and therefore are not publicly celebrated. They remain in some obscure places, hidden quietly in the Reports of the Department and those of SETA and individual companies. Of–course isolated unsavoury stories coming from our ranks tend to occupy the headlines.
Just less than eight months ago, everybody was on a hype about skills development shortage in the country. Various experts that emerged from nowhere, were giving us lectures on the best interventions, the diaspora, making the immigration laws very friendly to attract scarce skills etc. Today we have a recession and none of those experts are assisting us to encourage companies to accelerate training during this period to prepare ourselves for the future because recession gives us the opportunity to train. I am now convinced that some of them think that developing a human being skills is like putting a flour mixture or dough in an oven and set the correct temperature and time. Developing a human being’ skills requires time and this is the best opportunity we have instead of laying workers off blaming the recession. What I know is that when the situation changes, the very same companies will need these workers and by then there will be no time to train them. I know that the next thing, the skills development interventions will again be under a new scrutiny and new experts will also emerge again.
We have listened attentively to criticisms leveled against SETAs, the outcry to ramp up delivery against scarce skills, the need to improve and safeguard quality, and pleas to expand the delivery of skills programmes in order to increase our efforts. In this regard my department set out during 2007 and 2008 to review the SDA, largely, in order to effect technical adjustments; which once implemented will result in a much more flexible and broadened policy framework that will allow implementers of skills development in South Africa to accelerate and increase the delivery of skills, in particular scarce skills. Our efforts were not in vain as the President of the Republic finally assented to the proposed amendments into law by signing the Skills Development Amendment Act 2008 on the 1st December 2008.
Implementers in the Construction sector such as yourselves, are encouraged to take particular note of the improvements in the SD Amendment Act, 2008 to accelerated development of artisans in the country and institutes of occupational excellence.
I am also very excited that the Act provides a major revolution in our entire Education and Training system. The establishment of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) will fill a missing link that we have debated for years. It will provide us for the first time, with a coherent framework for an alternative learning system that combines both theory and its application. It will provide us with an opportunity to develop qualifications that start from a sweeper to a specialist level. It will enable us to realize a dream that was adopted at the COSATU Congress as far back as 1989. To make it possible for a sweeper to become an engineer if they are determined to learn.
We are confident that, by these improvements provided in the SDA Act, 2008, our skills development system will remain on a growth trajectory. We now have a system that is better geared to respond more robustly to the demand for qualified artisans, and that can take us into the next 5 years of the NSDS. We are most certainly on a consolidatory path, going forward!
These changes in legislation are of course good news for sectors such as the Construction that our government committed to continue to support despite current the economic recession. We know that there is currently a demand for artisans and technicians. In particular, the current CETA SSP (2008) reflects a demand for artisanal skills; such as bricklayers, Carpenters, Diesel motor mechanics, earth moving operators, fitters and turners, plumbers, plant mechanics and Mechanical Engineering Technicians. The demand for skills in this sector emanates from the sustained economic growth which the country experienced up to recently, our 2010 Soccer World Cup preparations and our ASGI-SA programmes to grow the country’s infrastructure. I am not suggesting that the Construction Sector, like other seriously affected sectors, should not continue to make adjustment to the industry’s plans. The CETA including all other SETAs, should also continue to make similar assessment on their SSP’s and reposition themselves within the context of the current economic challenges.
I want to make a specific call today to the Construction sector players to put the sector interests first before their group, government tenders or individual interests. The CETA should continue to concern itself with the needs for scarce and critical skills in this sector and to ensure that learners participating in various construction learning programmes have a better prospect for formal or self employment when exciting this learning. I have been involved in meetings with various groupings in the construction sector more than any other economic sector. I have read very bad news about how this sector continued to conduct itself be it skills development, collective bargaining arrangements, its occupational health and safety record etc. I think it is time that we bring all this to a stop, and that all parties within this sector, i.e. Africans, Couloreds, Indians, Whites etc, begin to hold your hands to work together in assisting us to solve some of these problems.
Despite all these problems, I remain appreciative of the role played by the stakeholders, and role players such as yourselves in contributing to the successes so far achieved under our skills development interventions. During 2009, let us continue to work together and pull up our sleeves to bring the last year of NSDS II to a resounding success! But let us not stop there, lets us ensure that NSDS III consolidate on the gains made in NSDSI and II.
I look forward to the graduation ceremony of the first learners to receive their qualifications from LEKAMVA ACADEMY Construction Council of Excellence. I wish you well in the partnership that you have commenced hope that it will make a difference in skilling our country’s workforce.
I thank you