South Africa is in a conundrum regarding our scarce skills shortages. The Skills Development Act expects industry to train as many people as possible through learnerships. Industry is willing to engage in learnership programs but there is a growing dissatisfaction in how SETA handles the qualifications that must be issued at the end of each learnership.
Industry is dissatisfied with the fact that SETA can take as long as three years to issue a qualification associated with a learnership. Delays at SETA to issue qualifications make it impossible for industry to claim part of the tax rebates that they are entitled to. At present, industry can claim a learnership entry tax rebate of R 40 000 for every person that was placed on a learnership. For every person with a disability, the learnership entry tax rebate is R 60 000. For every person that completes a learnership, industry is entitled to a exit tax rebate of at least R 40 000 (or R 60 000 in case of persons with disabilities).
Claiming the learnership entry tax rebate is relatively easy to accomplish. On the other hand, claiming a learnership exit tax depends on when SETA issues the national qualification that is associated with the learnership.
It can take as long as three years for SETA to issue a qualification and this has a significant knock-on effect on industry’s capability to claim tax rebates after a person completed a learnership.
Incapabilities at SETA to issue qualifications sooner, also means that there are many young people who have studied through a learnership and who cannot get a job until such time that SETA issues their qualifications to them.
SETA’s incapability to issue qualifications in a shorter timeframe scuppers the intentions of the Skills Development Act and it creates an unwillingness in industry to place persons on a learnership.
It is time for the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance to hold SETA accountable for their inability to issue qualifications on time. The departments represented by these Minsters are important components in the success or failure of the Skills Development Act. If anyone of these three Ministries fail to do its part, the entire learnership system is under threat. Since all three State departments play a pivotal part, levels of cooperation between these departments to issue qualifications on time, is not negotiable. It must happen and there can no longer be room for a siloed approach to South Africa’s skills crisis.
President Ramaphosa initiated an investor conference that started on 26 October 2018. One of the expected outcomes of the investor conference is to attract more investments so that more jobs can be created. Job creation depends on presenting as many qualified people as possible to the job market.
But, if SETA takes up to three years before a qualification is issued, how can jobs be created if industry wants to see that a person is qualified for a specific role?
Until SETA expedites the issue of qualifications, it is not possible to solve one of many complexities associated with South Africa’s unemployment statistics.