Education intros R75m labour system

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The Department of Higher Education (DHE) this week launched a new Labour Market Intelligence System at an initial cost R75 million.

It says this is a ground-breaking research project that will enable government and the private sector to make better decisions in matching skills demand to supply in the country.

“Through this initiative, South Africa will now have a labour market intelligence system that will empower students and work-seekers to make better informed education and skills decisions, which in turn will make them more attractive to employers and the economy in general.”

The system was developed in conjunction with the Human Sciences Research Council.

Labour signals

DHE minister Blade Nzimande said at the launch that this is a long overdue initiative. “Through this labour market intelligence system...our higher education and training institutions will also be able to respond more effectively to shifting labour market demand signals.”

Nzimande explained that the DHE is responsible for ensuring the achievements of the targets set out in outcome five of government's 12 priority outcomes. Outcome five is specifically concerned with the development of a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path.

He added that outcome five includes a number of outputs, of which the first is the establishment of a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning.

Reliable data

This includes three sub-outputs, according to the minister. These are the development of standardised frameworks for the assessment of skills supply, shortages, and vacancies in the country; the development of mechanisms to interface operational systems; and the development of strategic management information systems.

“Put simply, this project aims to set up systems for reliable data indicating skills needs, supply and demand in our labour market in a manner that will enable our country, including government and business, to plan better for human resources development needs of our country.”

The sub-outputs relate specifically to the establishment of the Labour Market Information System, says Nzimande.

“For far too long, the tools we have used to prioritise skills in this country have been based on a limited understanding and analysis of the character, structure, and shifts in the economy and the labour market. This [system] and other related projects hold the promise of refining our tools for an informed and an informative skills planning approach, tailored to the specific needs and policy context of South Africa in the 21st Century.”

Empirical analysis

The system focuses on contributing towards the creation of a credible labour market intelligence framework - the establishment of a functional interface that will ensure better information gathering, analysis, and overall systems synergy, said the minister.

Nzimande explained that this is in pursuit of a skills development agenda that is developmental, forward-looking, and embedded in empirical analysis of systems challenges and opportunities.

“This project is one of its kind globally in terms of scope and national funds set aside in its support. At an initial cost of R7 million, it is just one demonstration of the seriousness with which we take the issue of establishing a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning.”

Aligning systems

The project is complementary to the establishment of the Higher Education and Training Management Information System, as well as the Career Advice Information System.

Across the three systems, the integrated skills mechanism would therefore house various pieces of information gathered from several sources and underlying datasets.

This includes information regarding population and labour force; employment and unemployment; wages and salaries; skills demand; skills supply; skills movement and flow; the informal sector and its deployment/utilisation of skills; and industrial relations.

The project will be key to providing the information and labour market analyses required for aligning the economic and industrial priorities of the country with the education and training outputs required to support them, according to the minister.

“Properly focused skills development, which this project will help us to achieve, will also be of assistance in achieving another of the government's priorities: drastically reducing unemployment. At the moment, we have the anomalous situation where we simultaneously have mass unemployment and a shortage of skilled labour.

“As a labour market intelligence project, I am hopeful that this project will culminate in a smarter state that is able to collect and analyse data within the post-school system and, most importantly, make allocative and other policy decisions about the type and quantity of skills to produce, and the required institutional types and resources to provide these.”

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