Corporate South Africa must get behind the SETAs in public-private partnerships and support them in their endeavours to raise the standard and level of education and skills imparted to PDIs through learnerships. A failure of a SETA to achieve this is in many instances a direct reflection of the level of input and participation by the industry itself.
According to Loraine Vorster, regional director of CompTIA South Africa (computing technology industry association), the SETAs cannot and should not be expected to act alone in the delivery of learnerships. "Businesses can and must play a critical role in assisting the SETAs to respond to the needs of South African people through the provision of infrastructure, mentors and structured work placements. In particular, the IT industry's greatest challenge ahead is to clean up the industry and rid it of fly-by-nights and create standards comparable to global standards to regulate the industry," says Loraine.
Loraine Vorster, regional director, CompTIA South Africa
As the industry association representing both IT training providers and employers, CompTIA has worked closely with the ISETT SETA to protect both individuals seeking a career in IT as well as employers looking to employ staff.
"The ISETT ETQA has a big role to play in this through the accreditation process. Both the ISETT ETQA and CompTIA have a responsibility to educate individuals and employers on career options and how to avoid pitfalls. In particular, private individuals and employers have been advised to guard against corrupt training providers that have seen the ISETT's decision to award learnerships to training providers as an opportunity to make fast money and hence disregard the learners' needs, not facilitate employer participation and proper assessments," says Loraine.
A number of CompTIA Training Provider members such as Torque-IT and Boston Business College have taken the lead against this type of action and are well on their way to producing learners skilled in basic IT skills equivalent to the internationally recognised ICDL, A+, Network+ and MCSE certifications - skills employers recognise and require to further develop their employees.
As a result of global and local industry demand and recognition, these training providers have also decided to include international certification as a method of assessment, adding to the practical assessments. To ensure employer participation, CompTIA and the BITF Foundation joined forces to facilitate workshops where employers and the ISETT SETA meet and frankly discuss challenges and solutions. The first workshop was a major success and has resulted in five CompTIA member companies undertaking to participate in a learnership that will result in 50 unemployed individuals not only being skilled at the end of their training, but also placed in permanent work positions. CompTIA and the BITF Foundation, with the help of our first accredited ESDA in this industry, have plans to aggressively drive skills development in the IT sector, facilitating a platform where the industry and the ISETT SETA can meet and work together.
Furthermore, in conjunction with its members CompTIA has developed vendor-neutral certifications that enjoy global recognition and that will soon be recognised by the ISETT SETA and mapped to local standards. "Local employers such as Nashua, HP, IBM, Mustek, Telkom, AST, Minolta, Bytes Document Solutions and Gestetner have seen the benefits of certifying staff against a global standard in an industry where global competition is a reality. The standards created in CompTIA's A+ certification are accepted as an entry-level requirement for individuals who wish to enter a technical position in this industry and as a result, local standards have been based on the outcomes of the A+. To ensure international comparability and recognition of local standards, international certifications cannot be ignored, but must rather be accepted and incorporated as has been successfully done in the UK and other countries worldwide," adds Loraine.
Loraine adds that the ISETT SETA's more aggressive approach to speeding up skills development in the IT sector has been widely welcomed. The latest statistics quoted by the ISETT SETA is 3100 learners currently participating in at least one of seven registered learnerships. "Provided that serious attention is given to further develop the learners to higher skills levels as well as find employment for them, this is an excellent effort. Another ISETT SETA project that deserves a mention is the ISETT SETA's SMME project headed up by Wynand van der Merwe, Senior Manager of Business Development at the ISETT SETA.
"This project aims to accelerate skills development among small, medium and micro enterprises through the OEMs. CompTIA is actively working with its larger members to facilitate participation in this project," concludes Loraine.