CASE IN POINT // merSETA
By: Lydia Bundred
More than Education
The Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (merSETA) was established in the year 2000. Their focus is on metal and engineering, auto manufacturing, motor retail and component manufacturing, tyre manufacturing, and plastics industries. In total merSETA is comprised of approximately 44 000 companies, with a workforce of about 600 000. At the helm of it all is Dr Raymond Patel, who has been the CEO since 2006.
Dr Raymond has to his record 10 unqualified audit reports, top 10 rating in CRF’s Best Employer survey for 2009/10 and more than 24 000 learnerships and apprenticeships in 2010/11. Raymond expounds regarding the need for further education and the importance of skills development in our nation.
“Unlike basic and general education, the point of further education is employability. We are well aware that what business and industry need are people who can ‘hit the ground running’, people who can be productive in the workplace immediately. The key to this, at least in our industry, is good quality, vocationally oriented education in which school-leavers are exposed to occupations in the manufacturing and engineering sectors and where they then receive further post-school training before they enter the labour market. Yes, we have always aligned our strategy with the requirements of the National Skills Development Strategy, but we regard these as our baseline deliverables. There is always room for improvement, hence our strategy to strengthen merSETA’s sector mechanisms through skills planning and implementation in partnership with our members,” explains the CEO.
“MerSETA’s vision is aligned with the national vision; it exists within the broader national skills development system which aims to achieve the growth and development objectives as outlined in government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework. In fact, this national vision has provided the merSETA with the opportunity to articulate an approach towards skills development as a critical enabler to job creation. Skills are central to the achievement of decent work, poverty reduction, and employment growth in South Africa,” maintains Patel.
The Next Step
“Though the skills mismatch has its origins in the apartheid era, our education system has not helped the situation, nor have our labour regulations helped induce firms to switch from capital-intensive technology. The missing piece of the skills development puzzle is to be found in the synergy between the SETAs, employers and education and training institutions. At around 26.40%, South Africa has an unacceptably high unemployment level, while the number of unemployed graduates has of late swollen from 60 000 to more than 200 000, according to Statistics South Africa. The June 16 slogan may have been ‘Economic emancipation in our lifetime’, but the slogan we now need to embrace is ‘Skills development in our lifetime’,” insists Patel.