I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about skills development or what some may call learning and development in South Africa. The reason is very simple: I believe I was born to contribute to skilling the unskilled. I was part of many meetings in the mid 2000s where we discussed the “skills revolution” but that conversation is no more. In 2006 the government established a short-term skills intervention called the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills (JIPSA), which was led by then Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka that was going to spearhead the “skills revolution”. A lot has happened since. The Honourable Membathi Mdladlana who was Minister of Labour led skills Development then. I met the honourable Mdladlana a few times particularly when I participated in the National Skills Summits. He has been shipped to Canada now as SA ambassador to that country.
In President Zuma’s administration, Skills Development was moved to the Ministry of Higher Education & Training led by Minister Blade Nzimande and has culminated in the formation of the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa (HRDCSA) which was chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and I assume will be taken over by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. The HRDCSA has already developed and launched the National Integrated HRD Plan. Ok, enough with the background. I think I can see into the future and I want to suggest seven ways I think the Skills Development/ Learning & Development/ HR Development landscape will look like in 2024.
1.     Many South Africans will finally regard being an Artisan as “cool” though not enough: I don’t know if you know, 2014 to 2024 has been declared “the decade of the Artisan” by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training. By the way, it was in May 2007 when Minister Mdladlana said the following: “Artisan development remains a vital program if the government’s skills revolution in the form of ASGISA were to be accomplished” he continued to say ““As part of our response to the JIPSA’s call to increase the numbers of artisans to 12 500 per annum in order to meet the 50 000 target by 2010, we have embarked on a number of interventions”. Minister Mdladlana singled out SEIFSA and the MERSETA (companies where I worked) for praise, saying the duo had heeded the call and took leadership in this regard. Artisan Development has eluded us so far but I have a sense that Minister Nzimande has taken this as his main project and he cannot afford for it to fail. I’m certainly going to join him in spreading the word, everywhere I speak, that it is cool to be an Artisan because we desperately need Artisans as a country.
2.     SETAs are not going anywhere: Sector Education & Training Authorities are not going anywhere. There are some who think that SETAs will be scrapped soon but this is absolutely not going to happen. If you read the chapter that deals with Skills Development in the National Development you will immediately see that SETAs are not going anywhere. I do feel though that some are now trying to change SETAs into government departments, which was not the intention.
3.     Training Budgets will be smaller after adjusting for inflation: The SA economy is not doing very well. Unless we meet the economic growth target of 5% by 2019 as the President said, companies will be struggling and consequently our training budgets.
4.     Mobile Learning will be on steroids: Watch the space; in 2024, almost 50% of learning will be done in a mobile or table phone.
5.     Learning & Development will still report to HR: There are some in our profession who think that L&D will soon report directly to the CEO or the Managing Director of a business. Well, this is not going to happen. Get over it!
6.     Accreditation will be less of an issue: You must understand why people insist that every program must be accredited now. There are two reasons. The first is the current grant system means employers are pushing for accreditation. The second reason is that due to the fact many people in this country didn’t have an opportunity to get qualifications; accredited programs offer them this chance. This would have changed in 2024. Accreditation is very important but it will be less important in 2024 where most employers will be training people for the skill and less about catching up on qualifications.
7.     The Learning & Development Industry will have an ‘African” feel: For many years L&D in South Africa was modeled through the international, but mostly American, L&D Industry. A few months ago, the L&D community decided to take a new direction and rename ASTD South Africa, the African Society for Training & Development and to quote our current office bearers “Although still a strategic partner of ASTD International (American Society for Training and Development), our focus will be more on adding value longer term in influencing Senior Leadership in LEARNING and DEVELOPMENT in Africa. This ensures that with the new image we have more flexibility to centre our efforts on actual local challenges in Training and Development. Although it is still early days, many of us will work hard to see how this journey will evolve and by 2024, the industry will have a different feel. Oh by the way ASTD International, at the recent 2014 convention, have also changed their name to Association for Talent Development.
Siphiwe Moyo is a Skills Development/Learning & Development Maniac.