2019 National Skills Conference – WorkFit for Inclusive Growth
The National Skills Authority’s 2019 Skills Conference was centred around ‘Building a demand-led skills development system that focuses on inclusive economic growth’. The WorkFit Campaign was lucky enough to not only attend this prestigious conference but also to engage with the delegates as an exhibitor. It was a wonderful event, filled with interested delegates always keen to learn more about who WorkFit is. Among the more noteworthy visitors to the WorkFit stand was Minister Pandor, who was warmly greeted by Stephanie and Andile of the WorkFit team.
In Minister Pandor’s opening address she touched on several important points pertaining to the conference theme. Specifically, she made mention of the importance of work readiness to ease the transition from education into the workplace. Perhaps she was inspired after visiting WorkFit’s exhibition stand?
Apart from an engaging keynote address, the conference was also filled with interesting presentations and Commissions. One such presentation was presented by Dr Laura Brewer of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and looked at the changing world of work and its impact on skills needs. She identified the following major trends as influencing the nature of work:
- Technological Change – the demand for higher level skills is growing.
- Demographic Change – while we have a high number of youth other countries have an ageing population and insufficient young people to bring into the labour market. Labour mobility is also growing and an increasing number of people in the workforce are migrants.
- Climate Change – there is a decline in the numbers of people employed by the fossil fuel industry and an increase in the numbers of people in the “green economy”.
- Work Organisation – the increasing need for higher level skills, the automation of routine operations and the increase in non-standard employment e.g. the gig economy.
- Globalisation and Trade – skills are critical for both the quantity and quality of exports as well as to economic diversification.
Another important influencer of economic growth that was identified during the conference included the critical role that SMMEs play in the South African economy. Importantly, in the address by Mr Lindokuhle Mkhumane, Acting Director General of the Department of Small Business Development, he illustrated that SMMEs employ between 50 and 60% of the South African Labour force and contribute around 34% to the Gross Domestic Product. Despite these economic contributions many SMMEs do not become sustainable or competitive because they do not have access to a pool of qualified, skilled and motivated employees.
However, SMMEs are far more likely to succeed than emerging digital businesses as discussed in the 4IR commission. The reason for this is two-fold:
- The innovators of these emerging digital businesses do not have sufficient skills to turn ideas into viable products or services. They simply don’t have the skills to implement the idea or to take the product to market.
- SMMEs have exposure to around 50 000 business advisors and the Department of Small Business Development is in the process of developing regulations to professionalise the sector.
Importantly though, in order for initiatives in the small business sector to be a success one needs to look at the whole ecosystem, of which skills development is just one component.
Overall the conference was a huge success with many great connections having been made and conversations around growth having taken place.