Premier Zille Launches Apprenticeship Game Changer
Today Premier Helen Zille launched the Western Cape’s Apprenticeship Game Changer, during the annual meeting of the Premier’s Council on Skills. Representatives of business, learning institutions, SETA’s and government were present at the launch.
The main goal of the Apprenticeship Game Changer is to achieve sufficient, appropriately qualified technical and vocational skilled people to meet the needs of prioritised economic growth areas in the Western Cape.
The provincial government has set a target of introducing 32 500 qualified apprentices into the labour market by 2019.
This target includes apprentices who will qualify as artisans, semi-skilled workers who achieve partial qualifications, and top-up qualifications for existing artisans and semi-skilled workers.
We will be focusing on the Western Cape’s five key economic sectors prioritised under our growth strategy – Project Khulisa. These sectors are – Oil & Gas, Agri-processing, ICT, the Green Economy and Tourism.
“The Western Cape’s foreign direct green field investments grew by 143 percent over the past year, compared to 32% for South Africa as a whole. We have the fastest growing green economy in the world, agriculture has grown by over 7% and tourism is now a 12-month a year industry in the Western Cape. We urgently need to promote skills development to support the growth in these industries,” said Premier Zille.
Under a high growth scenario, Project Khulisa aims to add an additional 343 000 jobs in these sectors to the Western Cape economy by 2019.
“We recognise that if we want to break the cycle of poverty that so many of our communities are trapped in, we need to create ladders of opportunities for our youth so that they become productive and employable adults with brighter futures. We have to ensure that a shortage of skills is not an inhibitor to this ambitious target,” Premier Zille said.
The provincial government is strengthening its partnerships with employers, learning institutions and SETA’s to achieve its objectives.
A major priority for 2017 will be funding for poor students. Objectives include:
- Developing collaborative interventions between learning institutions and employers within specific geographic areas to provide financial assistance to learners;
- The province will focus on identifying learners who require financial support and aligning them with employers within our priority economic sectors; and
- The Economic Development Department’s advisory forums will work with employers and key SETA’s to simplify the processes businesses need to follow to access funds.
A second priority is the up-skilling of youth so that they are attractive to employers. The strategy will include:
- Providing academic support to learners who are at risk of achieving between 40 and 49% for maths, using eLearning as a means of providing maths tutorship;
- Identifying learners by working with learning institutions and the top 20 Employers in priority growth sectors; and
- Employers providing funding for mentors who can support these at risk learners.
We will also prioritise Career Development, focusing on qualified workers already employed in our priority sectors. In the coming months we will undertake a gap analysis of short and specialised courses on offer and ensure these are aligned to employers’ needs. At school level, government will focus on work readiness and life orientation programmes for learners in technical high schools and academic schools.
“We aim to achieve our Game Changer goals by focusing on a “push and pull” approach. A push strategy where learning institutions supply enough appropriately qualified, workplace ready learners to meet the needs of employers in the priority sectors; and a Pull strategy where employers increase their intake of apprentices while clearly indicating the skills they need in their businesses”.
Premier Zille said the targets were ambitious and would require a great deal of hard work and strong partnerships between a range of stakeholders working inside and outside government.
“Most importantly, it will require the active participation of employers. Employers need to be at the centre of our game changer, creating the bridge that will enable learners to move from educational institutions into the workplace as apprentices in large numbers. It is also important that the retention in the workplace of registered apprentices is improved (the current throughput is around 55% only)”.
In order to ensure that the learners graduating fit the skills needs of employers, the Western Cape Government was also setting up a real-time data system that will help forecast where the demand will lie over the next few years.
Critical to the success of this data system is engaging directly with employers to hear what skills they require in their workplace.
The Western Cape Government would be setting up engagements with the leadership of companies over the next few months in order to discuss their needs and the role they need to play in supporting the game changer.
“Our government is also facilitating the establishment of Technical Advisory Forums for each priority economic sector that will be convened and coordinated by TVET Colleges. These forums will include representatives from government, learning institutions and business and will perform a number of functions including identifying occupations needed within the relevant economic sector; short course or specialised training required by the sector, and learners requiring financial assistance or programme support,” Premier Zille said.
“While the Western Cape has the lowest youth unemployment rate in the country, it still stands at an undesirable 29.9% and has deteriorated by 4% over the past five years. At the same time, half a million jobs remain vacant across the country because a lack of appropriate skills,” said Premier Zille.
The reason for the skills shortages in key sectors of our economy include:
- Poor maths and science pass rates at schools;
- A lack of awareness of scarce skills and related employment opportunities;
- Learners preferring to enrol at universities, which are viewed as superior to technical colleges;
- Negative perceptions of the status of artisans; and
- A shortage of funding and workplace based learning opportunities.
Apprenticeships are critical in addressing these skills shortages.
“I often talk of our government ‘Better Together’ approach and that progress can only be realised as a product of partnerships between government, citizens, civil society and business – this is also critical to the success of the Apprenticeship Game Changer.
“We will not achieve our targets without a close collaboration with learning institutions and most importantly, employers. We therefore look forward to working closely with you over the next few years to make this game changer a reality.”