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PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT: Fundamentals Overlooked in Driving SA’s Skills Base


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"South Africa has the institutional arrangements in place to fund, implement and coordinate skills development but the delivery of certified skills into the economy is not taking place,” says John Botha, executive director for strategy at Production Management Institute (PMI).

The reason for this, he insists, is that career guidance, assessment and induction are not quality-driven processes with national priority status.

“These very basic steps have been neglected at the systemic level and are certainly not being adequately dealt with at institutional levels. Yet they are fundamental building blocks for successful career path development, for the production of formal qualifications and for advancing our national skills base.”

Botha cites the example of learnerships, which he says are the most meaningful job creation intervention yet. “Indications are that the national learnership certification rate is around 34% yet the cost per learnership is well over R40 000 per learner.

“If the process of learner career guidance, counselling, assessment, induction and quality-driven practices are not standard elements of implementing national priorities around skills, the skills deficit in South Africa – together with unemployment – will simply continue to grow.”

Between employers, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), the National Skills Fund, the Industrial Development Corporation, and others, Botha believes the country has sufficient levels of funding to drive skills development.

“Furthermore, we have several ‘national interest’ programmes that have identified employment, poverty, skills development and economic growth as critical, and we have enough – possibly even too many – institutions dedicated to addressing these matters.”

Botha clarifies that these institutions would include the SETAs, the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Council, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Council, Artisan Forums, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS), and the National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF).

“Yet, it is often the case that learners are contracted on learnerships and apprenticeships without any prior professional assessment.”
A proper assessment of a learner to ensure she is appropriately selected into the right learning and job trajectory involves an evaluation of the following:

• Cognitive ability – to establish the level of engagement with regards to complexity as well as potential to progress to higher National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels;
• Personality – to determine the nature and extent of a career that should be pursued;
• Emotional maturity – to gauge how environments of stress and change are handled; and
• Competency – to measure knowledge and skill levels, including numeracy and literacy.

“It is only once this full set of appropriate assessments have been administered that accurate and effective learner selection can take place,” says Botha.

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) defines competence as comprising a mix of knowledge, skills and attributes or values. “It makes no sense,” says Botha, “to place a learner into a field of study without having established her overall ‘DNA’ which portrays her natural talents.

“Knowledge and skills alone are not sufficient to ensure a sustainable career and learning pathway. We have to make certain that a learner is suited to a career or occupation to ensure both satisfaction and performance at work.

“In turn, we will see higher certification levels, better use of funds for skills development, motivated and productive employees and far fewer industrial relations (IR) challenges for employers.”

PMI is an accredited education and training provider involved with skills development in the workplace and is part of the Adcorp Holdings stable.

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