By Nicole McCain
The skills training and development sector holds the power to change South Africa’s economic trajectory by promoting the inclusion of all demographic groups. Not only does it upskill those who may have been denied access to education and the job market, it also creates an environment that promotes productivity and economic growth.
The need for continued skills training and development has resulted in a robust sector encompassing universities, various kinds of colleges, and private training providers. These providers work under the guidance of the Department of Higher Education and the National Skills Authority, to ensure courses and learning modules are accredited and regulated.
Here are four ways the industry is unlocking economic opportunity and promoting transformation:
- Skills development reduces the poverty gap:
Research by the United Nations has found that increasing access to skills and education can have a direct effect on reducing poverty levels and increasing economic activity. At the level of basic education, studies show that for each year of schooling, an individual can increase their lifetime earnings by around 10%.
But education has also been directly linked to a country’s ability to increase its domestic product (GDP) growth and meeting the skills shortage can have profound impacts on business activity within the local market. In a country such as South Africa, where many have historically been denied access to opportunities, skills training and development can be used as a powerful tool to increase inclusivity in the job market.
- Filling the skill shortage gap
The country’s skill shortage has left more than a third of companies struggling to fill their positions. Many of the shortages lie in practical skills, such as artisans and technicians, which can be taught through the skills training and development sector.
South African companies on average invest around 4% of payroll on training because it has numerous benefits for a company: Ongoing training improves organisational, team and individual performance. A business with an engaged workforce will achieve a 59% lower staff turnover rate, and ongoing empowerment of staff will create more effective leaders and confident workers.
- The sector is fertile ground for growing jobs
The Education, Training and Development (ETD) industry supports in the region of 52 000 businesses and is expanding annually, with a 2018 estimate showing 4% year on year growth.
There are 26 universities in the country, which employ over 57 300 permanent staff and provide tuition to over 685 000 full-time students. There are also 290 private Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, which provide training in a specific occupational field, and 125 private higher education institutions.
The 50 public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges employ over 18 000 staff, providing tuition to over 705 000 students. This number is set to increase, as nine new TVET colleges are currently under construction and are expected to be completed later this year.
- Growing skills equates to growing small businesses
The private skills training and development sector provides opportunity for many small businesses, according to Sharon van der Heever, chairperson for the Association for Skills Development in South Africa (ASDSA). ASDSA represents skills development practitioners and skills development administrators.
While there are still numerous challenges facing these businesses, such a red tape and complex accreditation process, these small businesses are key drivers for transformation in the industry. This is evidenced in the demographics of ASDSA’s membership: The organisation has 450 registered members, of which 50% are black owned and 20% are Coloured and Indian owned, explains Van der Heever.
The skills training and development sector creates a space for critical thinking, with institutions providing a space for challenging of stereotypes and preconceptions, but its impact can be felt far beyond skills transfer. Not only does it allow students and educators to carry out discourse that shapes society, but it also stimulates economic growth and reduces poverty.