Overcoming human capital challenges


Is investing in human capital finally paying off as a value-adding strategic business function that drives organisational performance?

Provinces are reporting progress in the Production of Artisans initiative in South Africa, a challenge that prompted Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to declare 2013 a Year of the Artisan.

This was revealed at the recent Human Resource Development Provincial Co-ordinating Forum held in the North West Province.

The forum, established to create a link and to encourage alignment between provincial human resource development activities and the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa (HRDC), affords provincial representatives an opportunity to report progress on the HRDC’s five-point plan with the following initiatives: production of professionals including artisan and technician development; alignment of the Provincial Resource Development strategy to the New Growth Path; access to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges; production of academics and industry/university partnerships; worker education; and foundational learning.

Most reports at the forum recorded progress particularly in the Artisan and Technician Development Initiative. The North West Province, represented by Tselane Letseli from the Office of the Premier, reported that 141 artisans were certificated by the end of 2013. The province is planning to produce over 500 artisans yearly from 2014.

Northern Cape reported that over and above training and development, it has recently completed two training centres of excellence as well as two other green skills centres, which are in construction for artisan development. This is an addition to the newly established university in the province. The two newly launched universities in Northern Cape and Mpumalanga have started with their programmes, with the first intake done earlier this year.

In comparison to the North West Province report, Gauteng reported 100 Vocational Development Programme graduates identified for the automotive artisanal programmes, with 90 placed in electrical engineering learnerships.

Gauteng also reported exposing 351 TVET leaners to the petrochemical industry, with 15 under training at the Rand Refinery Gold Zone in Germiston.

Another issue which was discussed was the skills required in the maritime sector in the country. The HRDC is currently conducting a study on this issue.

“Accumulatively, the numbers show a positive trajectory in dealing with the shortage of artisans in the country and ultimately building the human resource development base required to ensure a prosperous and inclusive South African society and economy,” said Brenda Ntombela, head of Secretariat of HRDC.

Following the success of 2013, as the Year of the Artisan, the Department of Higher Education and Training is embarking on a 10-year campaign called the 2014–2024 Decade of the Artisan, themed ‘It’s cool to be a 21st Century Artisan’.

The HRDC is a national multi-tiered stakeholder advisory body established under the leadership of the deputy president and under the management of the Higher Education and Training Minister to build the human resource development base required to ensure a prosperous and inclusive South African society and economy.

Meanwhile, the HRDC also launched its National Integrated Human Resource Development Plan at the institute’s inaugural HRDC Summit themed, ‘Unearthing South Africa’s Human Potential for Development and Growth’ to provide greater understanding of the role the council plays in the development of human resources in South Africa and to identify future HRD-related research needs.

A strong focus is placed on worker education, as it is key to affecting change in people’s lives. According to the HRDCSA Worker Education problem statement, “there is no clear collective vision on an integrated, accredited and non-accredited worker education and training framework in South Africa. As a result, no national co-ordinated and integrated Policy and Legislative Framework is available to guide and support the implementation of worker education and training.”

The Worker Education Technical Task Team (WE TTT), one of nine in the HRDC, commissioned a Worker Education Study in November 2012:

  • To conduct an analysis and attain a common understanding of the current provision and understanding of the three pillars namely Worker Education Ideology, Vocational Education and Joint Worker Education within the Worker Education and Training context;
  • To conduct a study on global/international practice in the Worker Education environment, focusing on the previous three pillars;
  • To compare and consolidate the analysis report on the current system and the benchmarking report;
  • To define a common vision for National Worker Education Framework; and
  • To produce a National Integrated Worker and Education and Training Framework.

The study started out with a national overview of worker education, which forms the basis of our understanding of the current context of worker education in South Africa and frames the approach using three pillars of worker education as adopted by the WE TTT: worker education, vocational education and joint worker/management education.

Following this, an international review was done within the constraints of the project to learn from best practice. This highlighted that, while there are permutations of worker education projects that may be relevant as a foundation for promoting worker education in South Africa, there is no precedent for an integrated policy framework.

The third and final component of the study is the proposed Worker Education Framework South Africa, which reveals that worker education has deep ideological foundations.

Worker education

There are also conflicting perceptions of its purpose among different stakeholders which makes worker education, as a concept, a highly contested terrain.

The approach adopted in this study is that the Worker Education Framework should be more than the sum of its parts. Held together by a vision and mission and an enabling, co-ordinated and integrated environment to focus on improving the human resource development base and skills of South Africa through collaboration of all social partners, it is seen as part of an overall strategy to accelerate human development, reduce poverty and attain sustainable economic development.

“The role of the worker as citizen is the basis on which all other roles depend. Workplace rights, for example, depend in part on an enabling legal environment which, in turn, depends on the legislative process in which all citizens, including workers and their organisations, participate. Thus workers cannot be genuinely empowered in the workplace if they are disempowered in society as a whole. Conversely, the empowerment of workers as citizens will be affected by their empowerment as workers.

“The proposed Worker Education Framework proceeds from this broad view of the interaction between workers as citizens and workers as producers,” according to the study.

Keneilwe Motebe

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