Workplace Skills Lacking

Dr Allen Grootboom, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Spokesperson for Education

The report on the Assessment of the Human Resource Development Practices in the Public Service, by the Public Service Commission (PSC), makes for interesting reading. The findings of the PSC’s research are an eye opener to the poor performance of government departments, not least of all the education department.

Whilst departments seem to have strategic and HR plans in place, this is as far as they go. The report indicates that while 97% of our departments have such plans in place, only 3% had implementation plans in place, only 7% had a Training Policy, and 37% did not have any strategy, policy or plan in place at all.

What does this say about government departments’ workplace skills plans and audits? Firstly there is a lack of understanding and capacity required to develop and implement effective skills development plans. Secondly, there is no systematic plan in place to address the training needs that should inform the workplace skills plans.

The implication of the above is that skills in departments become stagnant or lag even further behind. Taking the globalization and the knowledge economy into consideration, this in turn means that our government departments will be unable to deliver on their mandates. Hence, such plans mean little when they cannot be executed.

Our government departments are in fact failing the very communities they propose to service. Our government leaders on local level have to realize that skills development plays a vital role in promoting a learning culture in their organizations. This learning culture is stifled due to the fact that government departments outsource their training needs to fly-by-night companies instead of using their skills development law to facilitate proper skills training within departments. Furthermore, although some departments have skills development facilitators in place, 38% had only one such facilitator, 29% had two such facilitators and 4% had as many as nine. These members were not only inadequate but they also were not utilized.

On top of this, the Northern Cape Department of Education has yet to explain the missing R100 million intended for skills development. When looking at the need and skills shortage of the province, this is indicative of a failed state. The very department that has to champion skills development in the province cannot quite account of the monies intended for this purpose. The Public Protector has to urgently investigate where the monies have gone to. The documentation regarding these funds has been handed over to the office of the Public Protector. The people responsible for the vanishing of these monies must be brought to book, should these funds not be found.

Government has to begin to realize that appointing skilled workers rather than deployees, could only do public service, especially in the Northern Cape, well. Government also has to realize that there is no substitute for education and qualifications. Just through employing qualified persons, you are already motivating the youth to get a good qualification. The Education Department should lead the way to promote the hiring of skills and qualifications, rather than deployees.

In moving forward, the DA proposes that the Northern Cape Department of Education looks at the setting of outcome targets for every school, and then holding principals and district managers accountable to the outcomes of their schools, while also making provision for intensive teacher training and development. When this department starts placing an emphasis on skills, we will have moved a step closer to that illusive 80% matric pass rate.

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