19 March 2012 – Mark Mfikoe, the president of the Electrical Contractors Association of South Africa (ECA(SA)), an employer body whose 3,000 members employ some 75% of all employees registered with the Bargaining Council in South Africa has highlighted the disastrous state of artisan training in South Africa’s electrical sector.
“In my view the biggest scandal in this country is the compromising of our capacity to develop scarce skills for this industry and others as a result of the shocking manner in which our mandated training authorities continue to fail the country. All of us had hope when the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) were introduced in South Africa. We thought these would provide a huge opportunity for those of us whose opportunity to be trained was ruined by apartheid and exclusions at varsities and technikons, as well as financial exclusions occasioned by lack of funding from destitute families – circumstances I fought in my days as president of the Azanian Student Convention – as well as incentivising companies to train all their employees to improve the national skill base. Money was going to be raised from companies via a skills development levy to achieve these goals.
“What do we have? What do we have to show for this? Where are we with training?
Millions have been raised from companies via the skills development levy and millions are stacked away (hopefully) but virtually very little training is happening. The Energy Seta was placed under administration and the electrical contracting industry was transferred to the Construction Seta, and before you could wink, the Construction Seta was itself placed under administration and still is. Where does that leave training in the entire construction industry? Two meetings before the Energy SETA was placed under administration I was elected to its board. I attended those meetings and virtually no training was discussed. I asked the board members to have a critical look at themselves and ask themselves a question whether it was fair to the country that training in the sector was actually left to them to make real? Less than a month later the dysfunctional Energy SETA was placed under administration and we were transferred to the equally dysfunctional Construction Seta.
“The Construction Seta has failed to renew the training accreditation licence of the ECA(SA) training centres in Germiston and Cape Town, and the one in Durban had to close down when the country is dying to have qualified electricians. The Construction SETA has failed to issue trade test certificates for candidates that have passed at accredited training centres. In the company where I am a director, I have three such youngsters. All N6 electrical engineering graduates, passed the installation rules examination, passed their trade test and the qualifying module where they tested five installations and were judged to be competent. They cannot get their licences as registered electricians because the Construction Seta will not issue the trade test certificate.”
This is a scandal and Mfikoe would like to see people responsible being held accountable for their actions. “I listened to South Africa’s finance minister talk about the usage of money for training the other day and I had to ask myself, does this person have a clue what we are going through? Does he know how much this country’s skills development mandate is being compromised by officialdom in dedicated departments with no dedication and commitment? The scary thing is that we did not have SETAs before. Do you know how much we are paying for these organisations to exist and we, as tax payers, get absolutely nothing in return.”