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The demand-side of skills needed

Date posted: 20.02.2015 | Author: Harry Bovensmann

Policymakers would do well to ask whether they are paying sufficient attention to the demand-side dynamics of the labour market. Urgent reflection is also needed on whether the government approach is not, in fact, becoming more of an obstacle to young people finding employment.

Business continues to struggle to find adequate skills in South Africa, despite government’s extensive reforms to the national skills development and training system that have taken place over the last decade. This is as a result of government’s focus on building supply-side interventions such as sector skills councils, qualifying frameworks, grading of qualifications, and funding based on these, rather than acting to create the skills the country demands.

Since policymakers have largely bypassed the private sector, which should be instrumental in creating jobs for graduates from Further Education and Trainingcolleges (FET) and should therefore participate in shaping the current regulatory environment, employers have not sufficiently bought into the reforms.

It is supposed that the South African economy needs intermediary skills and colleges are best suited to support this demand. However, government may be laboring under a misinterpretation of what business requires, believing that training for the “knowledge economy” should supersede the creation of intermediary skills because it will have a negative impact on low-paid, semi- and unskilled work.

In addition, bycentralising skills development policy within the department of higher education, government may find itself locked into a narrow approach that limits the development of alternative strategies to boost skills development.

The Global Competitiveness Index (which measures the ability of institutions to create a globally competitive nation), demonstrates that the national skills development crisis is causing the country to slip down the rankings, and inward investment prospects are being harmed by the perceived shortage of required skills.

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