The ASDSA have joined forces with two leading professional bodies to improve governance & standards among skills development’s coalface workers.
Collectively, the Association for Skills Development in South Africa (ASDSA), SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) and the Chartered Institute for the Management of Assessment Practice (CIMAP) represent the interests of many of the professions tasked with implementing the National Skills Development Strategy. These include training providers, skills development facilitators, moderators, assessors, human resources and organisational development practitioners.
The three bodies have drawn up a memorandum of understanding whereby they will launch an informal confederation of professional associations within the next few months. They are urging other likeminded bodies to join them. Professions that would be applicable to join include training providers, coaches, mentors and verification agents since skills development plays an important part of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) compliance.
Chief Executive, Marius Meyer, insists “This is not an initiative that is dominated by any one body, it is a meeting place of equals who are prepared to put aside their individual interests to promote the greater skills development cause. This is the biggest grouping within the SABPP and it’s one of the reasons we are so serious about skills development. These people are involved with skills development on a daily basis.”
Meyer adds: “South Africa is sitting with a skills crisis. The different role-players have traditionally all done their own thing with the result that the entire skills development system is badly fragmented.”
Alliance talks were sparked after the SABPP, which was established in 1982, and ASDSA came together two years ago in a working group convened by the Services SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) to develop vocational qualifications for skills development facilitators.
“This was the first step towards formal discussions on ways we and other bodies could work together to determine the gaps in the skills development system and find ways to bridge them,” says Meyer.
Another important benefit of participating in the coalition is that skills development practitioners will be afforded a collective voice with which to lobby government, business and institutions such as Nedlac (National Economic, Development and Labour Council) and the National Skills Authority.
ASDSA chairperson Gill Connellan says each participating body will maintain its unique identity and focus, but overlaps in both strategic objectives and membership mean there are more synergies than differences. “The Association was formed in 2003 as a direct result of a provision in the original Skills Development Act that created a profession where previously there had been none.”
“The first skills development facilitators were little more than information conduits between companies and the SETAs with which they were registered, with many of them having the role thrust upon them in addition to their full-time HR, finance, training or other functions,” maintains Connellan.
Each of the (then) 25 SETAs, and therefore every economic sector, had its own SDFs and, while there were several common roles they played such as compiling workplace skills plans and annual training reports, each sector had unique requirements.
“Every SETA saw the SDF role a bit differently,” adds Ms Connellan, “with the result that there were no generally accepted standards of competence or practice. Without benchmarks there can be no effective governance and the consequence was that facilitators were looked upon as conniving and, often, downright dishonest.”
The establishment, consolidation and growth of the body (initially known as the Association for Skills Development Facilitation in South Africa) as well as its adherence to a standard of good practice and code of conduct for its members had gone a long way to changing these perceptions.
“Skills development practitioners are the people who get their hands dirty. They know better than anyone else what works and what doesn’t in the real world. As such, they should be encouraged to provide constructive inputs upwards along the supply chain,” insists Connellan.
In addition, she says, “By sharing resources and achieving scale efficiencies, we will be able to develop better professional qualifications and continuing professional development programmes across the entire spectrum of skills development-related occupations. This will benefit the members of all participating bodies.”