Unlike many African countries, South Africa has a vibrant and active private sector. The role of the private sector in the country’s development is therefore substantial. Despite this, SA is still lagging behind its neighbours as far as growth rates are concerned.
Unemployment is still very high and a major reason for this is that we are not competitive. The SA education and training system is responsible for delivering the skills needed for our country’s growth, yet we still face major deficits in skilled people. This is where private providers can play a role and make a contribution to the country’s growth.
Private providers must be actively engaged to accelerate SA progress and a reliance on the public institutions alone is not enough and clearly fallacious. The providers can play a pivotal role in contributing to sustainable development, job creation and growth.
However, the emphasis on the public sector coupled with massive funding, reduces the role of private providers. In the past, government provided funded unemployed training at non government institutions, however the practise has now been stopped, and, unless the unemployed beneficiary registers at a public institution, there won’t be any funding made available. This is clearly prejudicial and is not in line with best practise.
In Western Australia the government funds private providers to deliver training programmes to the community i.e eligible job seekers. The expansion of private provision is considered a key strategy to expand skills development in a sustainable manner and this also makes the industry more competitive. Thus by harnessing private provision, government is able to broaden the provisioning of skills training.
In other African countries state subsidisation of private providers delivers the following benefits: sponsors poor students, provides more accessibility for the poor and reduces the cost of private training.
South Africa needs a re-think about the role of private providers. They must be considered and included as partners in the education and training system. While it is critical to fund private provider training, public sector capacity must also be developed, but not exclusively.
Randall Jonas, CEO ETC