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Work placements in tech, banking and tourism with government help: Blade Nzimande

Minister of higher education slams 'unacceptable' youth unemployment figures

Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande says skills development programmes and workplace-based learning opportunities are being accelerated to address youth unemployment. File photo.
Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande says skills development programmes and workplace-based learning opportunities are being accelerated to address youth unemployment. File photo.
Image: GCIS

Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to provide more than 100,000 post-school opportunities amid “unacceptable” youth unemployment statistics. 

Addressing members of the media on Friday, Nzimande said the government had already spent fortunes supporting the youth through the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) system, and it was therefore important to assist graduates by providing appropriate placement. 

He made the remarks after his two-day meeting with the CEOs of the various sector education and training authorities (SETAs) on what role they can play in tackling unemployment and skills development.

“I must indicate that there is widespread agreement and commitment by the SETAs that we need to significantly expand the participation of young people in skills development programmes as well as workplace-based learning opportunities. And this has been given practical effect in their 2022/23 annual performance plans,” said Nzimande. 

“We note the unacceptable high numbers of young South Africans, especially between the ages of 15-24, who are unemployed, at 66.5%. About 3.4-million of the same cohort are not in employment, education and training (referred to as NEETs) ”

The department has increased its targets for workplace-based learning for the financial year starting on April 1, with the annual target now set at 107,000 opportunities in the form of learnerships, internships and work-integrated learning. 

In addition to this, Nzimande also announced that his department was targeting 20,500 opportunities for apprentices, 22,500 for artisanal trades, 31,300 for those completing learnerships and 148,000 for learners entering into various other skills development programmes, such as digital skills, crop production and plant production, set to start in the 2022/23 financial year.

“I am happy to indicate that every SETA committed to place no less that 500 TVET learners in various workplaces. As we speak all SETAs are finalising their annual performance plans, to reflect  these commitments,” said Nzimande. 

The Covid-19 adjusted lockdown regulations had contributed negatively to its skills system, he said.

“Our skills system's own revenue dropped from our projection of R19.4bn to R12.4bn as a result of the skills levy holiday for employers who contribute the 1% skills development levy.”

Despite this, the SETAs remain resilient and will bounce back, said Nzimande.

“We will prioritise this sector and will reallocate additional funds from the National Skills Fund, with our immediate focus being on work placement of graduates in TVET N6 Hospitality and Catering Services and N6 Tourism and NCV L4: Tourism learners.”

The minister revealed that the Bank SETA has set aside R54m for 2022/2023 to reskill and upskill workers in the banking sector.

“I must indicate as well that SETAs will be supporting my department of science and innovation (DSI) in the development of critical high-end skills in selected technology areas such as the bio-economic, space science, technology energy, intellectual property management and so on.

“Support will also be directed towards technical development and the artisan skills that will contribute to the commercial exploitation and social beneficiation of newly developed innovations.”

Speaking about measures to be implemented in this financial year, the department said the National Skills Fund (NSF), in partnership with the presidency, had allocated R100m towards the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative, which will benefit 4,500 learners in the digital learning space.

The NSF has also committed R200m to an employment creation initiative between the department of employment and labour through the UIF. This project will benefit more than 5,000 unemployed youth, according to Nzimande.

Unemployed youth, particularly TVET graduates, were encouraged to be on the lookout for the opportunities. 

In his concluding remarks, Nzimande said his department would leave no stone unturned to ensure that those who used the SETAs for their own personal benefits were held accountable.

“I want to indicate that together with the chairpersons and the CEOs of all our SETAs, we have also agreed to fight all forms of maladministration and acts of corruption within our SETAs. This is among the reasons that we had to place the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA) under administration. The forensic investigation into CETA is now complete and we are processing it.

“I must indicate that this is the principle we have adopted as the entire post-school education and training sector to ensure we run a corruption-free administration.”

TimesLIVE


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