OPENING ADDRESS BY DEPUTY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA AT THE 2ND HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL SUMMIT GALLAGHER CONVENTION CENTRE, MIDRAND
Programme Director, Ms Nolitha Fakude,
Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande,
Members of the Human Resource Development Council,
Partners from labour, business, civil society and academia,
Participants from our continent and abroad,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the 2nd Human Resource Development Council Summit.
As a country, we look to this Summit, and particularly the HRDC, to engineer a skills revolution that will fundamentally change our society in many ways.
We look to the HRDC to initiate and coordinate the measures that South Africa needs to pursue to ensure that we have the human capital required to meet our social and economic needs.
The HRDC is one of the most important instruments that we have to effectively tackle poverty and underdevelopment through education and training.
No country can achieve economic growth without paying attention to the skills development of its people.
This Summit is integral to the work of the HRDC.
This Summit provides a platform for reflection, engagement, collaboration and a platform for all of us to learn.
The Human Resource Development Council is the brains trust of our country when it comes to the development of the skills of all South Africans.
This Summit pays tribute to all partners in the skills revolution, in areas such as early childhood development right through to post-doctoral studies, from worker education to enterprise development.
This Summit pays tribute to all those people – young and old – who are curious, who are inquisitive, dedicated and focused, and who seek to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
This Summit is about forging partnerships for skills development.
I was happy to see the HRDC from Botswana, because it is when we interact with our neighbours and other international partners we sharpen our wits and learn from them.
It is a call to action, to make South Africa a learning and skilled nation; a nation that has highly skilled people in all facets of life.
It is informed by the expectation that we must fulfil our mutual obligations to one another, that we must recognise that the welfare of each of us is the welfare of all of us.
It embraces a vision where social partners work collaboratively to guarantee that all people are supported to embrace and to fulfil their great potential.
The theme for this Summit is inspired by the assertion in our National Development Plan that we are a country where everyone feels free, yet bounded by others – where one is not self-sufficient alone, but self- sufficient in community.
Thanks to the crucial contribution of bodies like the HRDC, we are making progress to attain the goals that we set out in the NDP – the goals of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030.
We are making progress in transforming our economy and establishing the basis for faster job creation.
Yet, despite this progress, ladies and gentlemen, we meet here today in difficult and trying economic circumstances.
Global conditions are not favourable for the growth of our economy – an economy that relies on the export of basic commodities and that is so dependent also on foreign investment.
While there is little we can do to influence global economic forces, I believe there is a great deal we can do to reshape and reposition our economy.
There is a great deal we can do – and there is a great deal we are doing – to significantly expand the productive capacity of our economy.
We are not content merely to extract minerals and grow food.
We want to manufacture, build and process.
We want to extract more value, create more jobs and realise more development from our abundant natural wealth.
At the centre of this effort must necessarily be a massive expansion of our country’s skills base because therein lies the real wealth of our country: our people.
With a skilled citizenry, we can definitely build more, process more and do much more.
We can develop and manufacture more products.
We can be more efficient.
With a skilled citizenry we can be more resourceful, more inventive, more creative and achieve great things.
Skills grow the economy. They create jobs.
Skills raise standards of living and reduce inequality.
Education and skills development are the most effective means we have at our disposal to end poverty and reduce inequality.
That is why this Summit is so important.
This Summit will provide an update on the implementation of the recommendations of the HRDC’s Technical Task Teams.
These teams – comprised of experts, practitioners and stakeholders – have sought ambitious, but realisable, solutions to some of our country’s most important education and skills development challenges.
I wish to commend each of the task teams and thank them all for the time and effort they have dedicated to this task.
They have worked enormously hard to bring us to where we are and to come up with new ideas that will also be discussed at this Summit.
Progress has been made in all the areas of work.
One of these areas, where the impact of the Council is being keenly felt, is in the expansion and improvement of TVET colleges.
We know from experience that a shortage of artisans undermines economic growth. We have experienced this in our country where, because we had a great shortage of artisans, our economic growth has lagged behind.
It is for this reason that we are improving the profile of the sector and investing massively in the training and employment of artisans.
The Department of Higher Education and Training is implementing the recommendations of the task team through its Turnaround Strategy for TVET Colleges.
An essential part of this strategy is measures to bridge the divide between the process of training and employment, between the classroom and the workplace.
To this end, the HRDC recently launched its Adopt-a-TVET College campaign to promote cooperation between industry and TVET colleges.
To date, 24 out of 50 colleges have been adopted by a number of companies.
We encourage local and international companies to adopt TVET colleges as we seek to build a successful model for vocational training.
This adoption creates a beneficial relationship between the colleges and the private sector. It helps to improve the delivery of the curriculum, helps to improve the administration of the colleges, and helps to improve the outcomes.
Adoption of colleges does work, and does pay dividends.
We applaud our many international development partners and business partners who are investing financial resources and expertise to improve the quality of learning and the prospects for employment of TVET graduates.
There are other important areas of progress.
The HRDC report on the production of academics and strengthening of higher education partnerships with industry has been handed over to Universities South Africa and to the departments of Higher Education and Training and Science and Technology.
The report explores the factors that constrain the production of academics, including the reasons for South Africa’s low rate of post-graduate enrolment and high rate of attrition.
Importantly, the report makes several recommendations on measures we need to take to address these.
Some of these recommendations require better collaboration between government, institutions and industry.
Others require that our programmes should be better designed and that our interventions should be more focused.
Yet, we cannot escape the reality that part of the solution lies in the more effective resourcing of higher education.
Much of the recent public discourse on the funding of higher education has, correctly, focused on the need to ensure that students from poor households have access to universities and colleges.
Alongside this imperative – of ensuring equal access – we need to ensure that higher education itself has the funding required to achieve quality outcomes.
This is necessary if we are to truly transform higher education.
In the commissions, participants will engage with this and other work undertaken by the HRDC’s technical task teams.
We anticipate that the collective skills, insight and experience of summit participants will be brought to bear on each of these critical areas.
We should not underestimate the importance of the work we have been given to do.
We are not merely developing skills.
We are developing the South Africans of tomorrow.
This is the task we have been given. This is a burden we must engage with, because what we are doing is changing the face of South Africa.
We must listen to each other, respect each other and listen to those who are not here. We must listen to the dreams of South Africans.
We must empower them. We must enable them. We must give them the wherewithal to reach their individual dreams.
We must encourage them to appreciate their civic responsibilities.
We must teach empathy and respect and integrity.
These South Africans of tomorrow need to be versatile and innovative in a rapidly changing environment.
We must be a nation that values continuous learning and that promotes self-development.
We must be a people who are hungry and thirsty to acquire skills. This is what this Summit is intended to do: to encourage South Africans to thirst and hunger for skills and education.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Summit is about collaboration. It is all about partnerships.
It is about a common investment in a shared future.
As we engage in our deliberations, we may want to reflect on these words from the Vision Statement of the National Development Plan:
“We are a web of relationships, fashioned in a web of histories,
the stories of our lives inescapably shaped by stories of others.
“We are inevitably and intimately implicated in one another.
“Our connectedness across time and distance is the central principle of our nationhood.
“We are a people, who have come together and shared extraordinarily to remake our society.”
This is the task of this Summit – to remake this South African society, and to come up with ideas, suggestions and recommendations that are going to reshape the skills base of our country and turn South Africa into a country of learning people, skilled people and people who want to progress and move forward.
As we meet today, at this 2nd HRDC Summit, we are called upon to forge ever-stronger partnerships, to share experiences and ideas, and to be an essential part of the colossal effort to remake our society.
We are a fortunate people, we South Africans, we who are seated here.
We have been given a rare opportunity to come up with ideas, to put their heads together, to reshape the trajectory of this country.
We are a nation that is developing. We are moving forward.
We are making history. We are shaping the future of our country.
I wish you all the best as you engage in commissions and with each other.
I thank you.