In 2010, when the country was on a collective high, focusing on the soccer field, another milestone was taking place in the human resources field, with the launch of the Human Resource Development Strategy (HRDSA). To the architects of the plan, the launch was as momentous as Siphiwe Tshabalala’s tournament-opening goal and would have just as lasting an impact on South Africans.

A successful South Africa is built on a scaffolding of varied programmes and strategies that slot comfortably together and work in harmony, while retaining their individual integrity, to equip the country for today’s challenges and prepare it for tomorrow’s.

The HRDSA is an important feature of the structure, having had its origins in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), which declared as one of its key principles that: ‘Our people, with their aspirations and collective determination, are our most important resources. The RDP is focused on our people’s most immediate needs and it relies, in turn, on their energies to drive the process of meeting these needs. Development is not about the delivery of goods to a passive citizenry. It is about active involvement and growing empowerment.’

Of course, a strategy should always be a living plan that shapes itself according to the changing needs of the population it serves and responds to evolving trends and emerging skills demands. The HRDSA is no exception.

Brenda Ntombela is the dynamo running the show at the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) Secretariat, an entity founded to manage implementation of the HRDSA. She and her team have achieved much in recent years, not least overseeing the recent review of the strategy to keep pace with a South Africa on the move.

Since the council was established,’ Brenda explains, ‘various new government priorities and plans have been developed and launched, including the National Development Plan (NDP), which sets out government’s long-term priorities and plans, and the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), which outlines government’s key medium-term priority areas. These changes required a review of the HRDSA.’

The changes were needed not only to continue supporting the economic and social priorities of the country, but in the light of the demands of the fourth industrial revolution. The review gave rise to the ‘Human Resource Development Strategy towards 2030’, which was approved by Cabinet in June 2017.

‘The council has defined its core goals and developed five inter-related and interdependent programmes to address these key priorities,’ Brenda elaborates. The programmes are:

  • Foundation education with science, technology, engineering, maths, languages and life orientation/skills

Universal access to high-quality foundational learning including two years of pre-primary education to strengthen essential skills.

  • Technical vocational and educational training (TVET) and the ‘rest of college’ system

Establishing public TVET colleges and the ‘rest of the college’ system, including community colleges, as credible partners in the delivery of occupational qualifications, including artisans; ensuring that two pathways exist for learners (entrepreneurial and/or work placement); building linkages between colleges and employers (private sector); building the capacity of TVET college educators; strengthening TVET college leadership and management and strengthening the linkage between technical high schools (and improving their capacity) and TVET colleges.

  • Higher education and training, research and innovation

Establishing partnerships for the development of quality higher level occupational skills, and building linkages between further education and training, and higher education institutions in the provision of technical and vocational education and training.

  • Skills for the transformed society and the economy

Building a flexible and responsive skills system, implementing worker and shop steward education, establishing effective structures and systems for achieving quality, acknowledging the recognition of prior learning and ensuring the curriculum includes a focus on self-employment to develop small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and entrepreneurs.

  • The developmental/capable state

Improved coordination, establishment of effective structures for delivering skills, clarifying the funding of both new entrant and existing employee training, expanding workplace skills training opportunities and building capability for the developmental state.

 ‘The success of the HRD strategy towards 2030 depends on the contribution and commitment of all social partners, including government, community, organised labour, business, research and academic sector, professional bodies and other role players,’ says Brenda.

As the implementation of the strategy is now aligned with the MTSF, lead departments as well as the implementing agencies, report to the HRDC against set indicators. This will enable the council to monitor progress and to identify blockages and propose solutions where targets are not being met.’

Sounds like a plan!


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