Minister Angie Motshekga: Technology and Technical Subjects Round-Table Discussion

Honourable Deputy Minister: Mr. Enver Surty

Director - General: Mr. Mathanzima Mweli

Senior Management and officials from the Department of Basic Education (DBE)

Representative from the sister Government Departments

Representatives from Organised Labour

Representatives from Science, Engineering and Technology Associations

Representatives from the corporate and business sectors

Representatives from the Higher Education Institutions (HEI's)

Representatives from Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO's)

Ladies and gentlemen

It gives me pleasure to address today's Technology and Technical Subjects Round-Table Discussion.

Programme Director, from the onset, I wish to convey our heartfelt gratitude to all attendees for making the time for this important and historic engagement. We especially extend our gratitude to midwives of technology and technical training in South Africa whose contribution has not been adequately acknowledged.

We understand the misnomer that exists among the majority of our learners who seem to think that basic education is a springboard only to the traditional university education stream. We must say without any fear of contradiction that the sole purpose of a good basic education is to offer various career pathways to all learners.

In this regard, we must admit that for a long time Technology and Technical Subjects have been the Cinderella children of the basic education sector. It is now an accepted fact that some graduates are a mismatch for the skills required by the market.

Fore-instance research conducted by the Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town showed that there were approximately 200 000 unemployed graduates in South Africa with a mix of certificates, diplomas and degrees. Unemployment among black graduates, in particular, rose faster than any other category of the unemployed: between 1995 and 2005, the unemployment rate for graduates increased by half from 6, 6% to 9,7%.

Sadly, we have not reversed this legacy. According to the University of Johannesburg 2014 Study, it summarised the problem thus: "The causes of skills shortage were established to be: the closing down of artisan training schools, insufficient practical exposure, unattractiveness of being artisans and migration of skilled artisans among others." The researchers found that artisan skills shortages had also impacted negatively on the construction industry - in terms of the quality of work produced, increased costs of projects, delays and a decline in productivity."

Addressing a Youth rally in Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga, 2014, my colleague Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said openly that the retail motor industry in South Africa said to him, "there is a shortage of 10 000 motor mechanics". Minister Nzimande said they had developed strategies to try to send a message that being an artisan is "cool".

Programme Director, we take no solace in the fact that the phenomenon of skills shortage is not only a South African problem but a global challenge. Globally, research indicates that 50% of industries in developing countries are also facing skills shortage. This skills shortage has had negative impact and contributed to the chronic vacancies and poor productivity in most productive sectors of the various economies.

Programme Director, the situation is acute when we compare our country with the developed world in just one area, i.e. the production of engineering professionals. The figures indicate that the United States of America produces 380 engineers per million people, China 225 per million people, India 95 per million people and South Africa about 45 per million people. America, India and China have between 130 and 450 people per engineer. In short, this means South Africa has only one engineer for every 3200 citizens.

Our diagnosis of this dire situation of skills shortages and skills mismatch points to a myriad number of reasons. These are:

The discontinuing of colleges offering technical subjects for teachers and technical schools contributed to the reduction of the number learners pursuing skills orientated careers.

The stigmatisation of learners who are under-performing academically and, if they decide to opt for the technical field - this is looked on as an inferior pathway.

The ongoing exodus (brain drain) of skilled and experienced personnel in search of competitive salaries.

Inadequate mentoring and training mostly by industry and business

A global demand for skills in these sectors with the resultant global mobility of these skills.

Under-prepared learners who lack the basic knowledge and fundamental skills of technology and engineering subjects.

The deficiencies in the present school system and in particular the low numbers of learners with the requisite Grade levels in Maths and Science to undertake post-matric education in the engineering sector.

The collapse of traditional artisanal training.

Some other contributing factors are the persisted gender discrimination where women are not encouraged to pursue technical and technological careers. In some cases, it is the reluctance of big businesses in many sectors of the economy to equip their workforce to adapt to change as the economy becomes more knowledge-based. When structural change occurs, too often the outcome is retrenchments rather than retraining and redeployment of working people. This trend must stop.

For our part as Government, I must admit that there has been indeed some policy paralysis. There is an apparent a lack of synergy between the General Education and Training (GET) band versus the Further Education and Training (FET) band. In addition, there are various post-school sub-systems which include Universities, Universities of Technology, Skills Education Training Authorities in South Africa (SETAs) and the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET). There is a dire asymmetry amongst these. This has led to the lack of realignment, inefficiencies and frankly at times to wasteful expenditure.

Is there a need for me to state the obvious that all these various post-schooling sub-systems work in silos?

This state of affairs has had a negative impact on the economy, because our country had had to source foreign skills for infrastructure development amongst others. This, obviously, is an untenable situation because it results in huge revenues leaving the country without any meaningful skills transfers.

Programme Director, not all is lost. Since, we made the right diagnosis; we have been hard at work to turn this situation around for the better. Some of these measures include:

We have finalised the new Curriculum Assessment and Policy Statements for the Technology and Technical Subjects through the introduction of specialisation in the following five areas:

Civil Technology specialising in (woodworking, construction and civil services).

Electrical Technology specialising in (power systems, digital systems and electronics).

Mechanical Technology specialising in (Automotive, fitting and machining and welding).

Technical Mathematics and

Technical Sciences.

We have also come to a realisation that for a significant percentage of learners, namely those with moderate or severe intellectual disability, or other barriers to learning are more inclined to a technical skills and vocational track.

In this regard, the Minister of Basic Education in 2013 approved the establishment of a steering committee for the development of a Skills and Vocational Exit Level Qualification at NQF Level 1. To date, the development of the Draft qualifications in this area is far advanced and encompasses 26 Skills and Vocational Subjects that include an academic component aligned to the CAPS and vocational subjects aligned to the occupational qualifications accredited by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).

Moreover, we have successfully trained Subject Advisors for both the GET and FET bands in these new offerings. We are ready to roll-out these in 2016. We are of a firm view that this three-pronged approach i.e. Vocational, Technical and Occupational will be able to accommodate all learners. We are also alive to the debates that not all learners are academically inclined. The introduction of the three streams will economically benefit the country and draw a sizeable number of learners towards addressing the skills shortages and producing ready-made learners for the TVET Colleges.

Furthermore, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) have started with the process of curriculum alignment for Technology and Technical Subjects between and among the Senior Phase, FET and TVET colleges. The reason for this alignment is to avoid duplication of programmes and learning content.

In addition, the DBE is in discussion with the qualification authorities for them to perform the necessary quality assurance and accreditation. We are confident that new subjects meet international standards.

For its part, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) has evaluated the content of all these subjects. To this effect, they have submitted a comprehensive report to the department. It is my privilege to share with you the summary of their findings.

The South African Qualifications Authority has concluded that all new subjects meet the required competencies consistent with National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 4. The new subjects - just refresh your memories - are as follows: Technical Sciences, Technical Mathematics, Civil Technology, Electrical Technology and Mechanical Technology.

In summary, the SAQA found as follows:

The learning at Grade 12 reflects the competency expected at NQF level 4.

The five subjects contain relevant and interesting knowledge and skills at the appropriate level to be part of the National Senior Certificate.

The progression in knowledge through grades 10, 11 and 12 is well planned.

The linkages between the subjects are clear i.e. they are not presented as isolated silos of learning.

Programme Director, there is no turning back. We must revolutionise skills development in this country, in line with the injunction of the National Development Plan, Vision 2030.

In conclusion, I want to challenge the business sector today to consider the following factors as pointers to a prosperous future:

Increase labour market opportunities for student through internships.

Create strong private and public advocacy teams to drive initiatives in the community that impact positively on the local economic development outlook.

Produce a more skilled and better prepared workforce that enhances economic stability and growth.

Establish additional funding streams for schools and skills development programmes.

Ladies and Gentlemen I wish you well in your deliberations. All the best for the festive season!!!

Ngiyabonga!!!

Ke a leboga!!!

I thank you!!!

SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICAL NEWS

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