Companies should commit themselves to supporting the structures that are trying to promote coordinated skills development in the IT industry, instead of using their so-called ineffectiveness as an excuse not to get involved.
"The IT industry has mandated representation in the form of associations and bodies, which are geared towards promoting coordination among companies," declares Adrian Schofield, International Sales and Marketing Director of CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association). "Together, they should be looking at cooperative schemes to share the costs associated with skills development."
The skills development levy is intended to stimulate skills development by enabling employers to reclaim some expenditure on skills development initiatives. Before this can be done, however, the various sector education and training authorities (SETAs) must carry out research to identify and prioritise sectoral skills shortages and training needs so that appropriate learnership programmes can be developed. From there, the National Standards Authority (NSA) will identify national priorities for skills development, and only those companies which have produced compliant work skills plans will qualify for grants or rebates.
"Whether the plan will work remains to be seen," says Schofield. "Essentially, the levy will suck approximately R1 bn out of the economy, intended as seed money for the development of skills training. Of this, the IT sector will generate R35m. In terms of the legislation, only half of this amount is available for training. Consequently, if R10 000 is spent on training one learner, then only 1750 learners will be trained. Reduce the training figure to R1000, and 17 500 learners will be trained. Considering the IT industry needs to train at least 50 000 learners a year to alleviate the skills shortage, where will the additional 32 500 come from?"
Schofield warns IT companies not to hold their breath for the successful outcome of the skills development programme. "In certain niche sectors of the economy the plan will work, because money can be drawn from employers who have not been pulling their weight in terms of training and placed into the resources of those who have.
"In an industry as diverse as the IT sector, however, it is very difficult to envisage a successful outcome. Not only is there a high cost of compliance before employers can claim back their money, but it will cost large corporations twice as much to recover their grants than the actual grant itself. Where then, does that leave the small and medium enterprises?"
Instead of these companies taking the burden of skills development upon themselves, Schofield says they should look at ways of sharing it by working in conjunction with associations such as the Information Industry South Africa (IISA) which can provide essential facilitation, structure and management where it is needed.
"The SETAs and skills development process are designed to promote a healthier economy and business environment. It is time for the IT industry to get over its fragmentation issues and instead support the structures that are trying to coordinate the industry. Let us stop the tail wagging the dog and get involved in the education process," Schofield concludes.
CompTIA is a not-for-profit trade association of more than 10 000 companies and professional IT members in the converging computing and communications market. It has members in more than 50 countries and is headquartered in the Chicago area.
For information contact Adrian Schofield, (011) 787 4846, firstname.lastname@example.org