The Labour Market Intelligence Partnership: Emerging findings

CATEGORY: Education and Skills Development
DATE: 31 March 2015

CREATING A CREDIBLE INSTITUTIONAL MECHANISM FOR SKILLS PLANNING

The challenge for any government is to anticipate the skills that are needed for the current and future economy and using this information to plan the size and shape of the post school Education and Training system. In 2009, the government identified building a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning as one of its priorities. Three years later  the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) commissioned a Human Sciences Research Council led consortium (called the Labour Market Intelligence Partnership – LMIP) to conduct research to build the mechanism  for skills planning

Why the project is important

A credible skills planning mechanism will provide a better understanding of the supply and demand of skills; will support government’s economic development strategy; will target resources to education and skills areas in most need and thus tackle skills shortages; and will provide credible information to direct government resources at those skill areas where people are likely to get employment. In this way the country can tackle unemployment and could improve South Africa’s economic competitiveness and contribute to poverty alleviation.

The LMIP conducted a number of research studies to understand, in greater depth, the supply and demand for skills and the extent to which supply responds appropriately to demand.

Briefing to Minister Nzimande

The LMIP research consortium held a high-level briefing workshop with the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, on Tuesday 31 March 2015. The aim was to share evidence-based, policy relevant insights and recommendations to support DHET’s  development of a credible institutional skills planning mechanism for South Africa, towards achieving national priority Outcome 5, to create a ‘skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path’.

The LMIP proposes an inclusive socio-economic skills planning approach for South Africa. In this approach we need to read the signals of demand from the economy, government growth strategies and trade and investment policies. This demand will then inform which education and training programmes need to be prioritised and where funding resources would be directed. Government, with partners, would use the labour market information to check for the alignment between government growth initiatives and industrial strategies and an inclusive skills strategy.

Skills planning requires data and information on skills supply and current and future demand for skill. The LMIP has proposed a set of indicators which, when populated will provide information to make decisions of where to direct resources for skills development. But skills planning involves understanding more than the numbers and cannot and must not be seen as simply directing resources in particular directions (like turning on a water faucet) and expecting that we will achieve the desired results.

HSRC CEO Dr Olive Shisana, said skills planning a complex process. “We need to understand the dynamics that shape individual behaviours; the contours and capabilities of institutions that make them act in particular ways; the responsiveness of education and training institutions to the changing demands from firms and workplaces; the changing nature of work and workplaces and the response of the labour market to graduates.”

The research on aligning skills supply and demand is critical to improving labour market outcomes, she said.

High-level results

·         Improved data gathering and analysis is critical for improving skills planning and the LMIP proposed, Labour Market Intelligence System for South Africa (LMIS-SA), will include data on skills supply, skills demand, workplace skills and vacancies, trends in the economy, government growth strategies and trade and investment strategies.

·         LMIP proposed that the planning be coordinated by a new body, a Skills Planning Unit located in the DHET, which would be responsible for coordinating the processes to collect, collate and analyse the data.

·         LMIP proposed a new survey – the SETA labour market survey - to analyse skills demand and training supply in a more nuanced way. This survey is directly relevant to the labour market in which the SETA operates.

·         A study on graduates’ transitions to the labour market from two Eastern Cape universities found that schooling background, race and gender are significantly associated with successful career choices and the risk of unemployment.

·         Research on how social attitudes impact on labour market outcomes found that young people believe that the lack of quality education and skills training demanded by the knowledge economy is the reason for unemployment. Unemployed youth were optimistic about securing future employment. The level of optimism related to the level of education completed – the least educated were the most pessimistic.

·         The linkages and interactions between colleges, universities, firms, government agencies and intermediary organisations hold many benefits for institutions, firms and young people. There is a need for colleges and universities to develop their interactive capabilities, that is, the expertise, structures and interface mechanisms that can support linkages with firms, government agencies and intermediary organisations.

·         LMIP research focused in-depth on the changing nature of artisanal work and identities due to the impact of technology, changes to work organisation and new forms and fields of practice. Without recognition of the different labour processes found in any one trade, an inevitable gap arises between the expertise demanded in the workplace, and the knowledge and skills coded into a curriculum

The briefing workshop provided a constructive space for engagement between the DHET, the LMIP and key stakeholders in the skills planning space.

A process of consultation and engagement in relevant stakeholder forums will take place in 2015/16. Full reports, working papers and other relevant materials are available for download on the LMIP’s website: www.lmip.org.za

Enquiries:

Dr Vijay Reddy

 

Programme Director: LMIP and Executive Director: Education and Skills Development, HSRC

 

vreddy@hsrc.ac.za


Speech by Prof. Olive Shisana, HSRC CEO

Honourable Minister, Dr Nzimande,
Director General of Department of Higher Education and
Training, Mr Gwebs Qonde
Deputy Director General of Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr Firoz Patel,
Senior Officials: Department of Higher Education and Training & other government departments;
Senior Officials from SETAs, Universities and Further Education and Training Colleges;
Executive Director of Education and Skills Development programme, Dr Vijay Reddy and HSRC staff
Members of the Research Community
Members of the Media

Minister Nzimande in 2012, you and the DHET requested the HSRC lead a team of researchers to conduct appropriate research to provide a scientific basis to “set up systems for reliable data indicating skills need, 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”. You further indicated that “This research 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”.

And the Labour Market Intelligence Partnership Research Project was born. This research project provided a unique opportunity for collaboration between government and the research community to deliver on one of the key priorities for the country.

Download the programme

In 2012, I promised high quality science leading to information, knowledge and appropriate labour market intelligence. I had referred the 2008 book, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, which offers some insightful and important propositions to plan and do things differently to achieve excellence as individuals, institutions and as a nation. One recommendation was the 10 000 hour rule of investment to develop expertise.

Close to three years on since the start of the LMIP, we gather at this briefing meeting to share some of our findings to you, Honourable Minister, the Department of Higher Education and Training and the audience of skills development policymakers, practitioners and researchers. I can vouch that researchers in this project collectively spent many more than 10 000 hours studying skills planning.  Not only have they studied this area and conducted research to better understand the enterprise and dynamics of skills planning, but they have undertaken the work in collaboration with government and other social actors. I am pleased to note that LMIP has become a brand synonymous with skills planning in South Africa.

In my remarks, I want to reflect on two dimensions of the work of the LMIP:

  • findings from the research
  • the relationship between DHET and the research community in this exercise and

At this point it would be prudent for me to refer to our National Development Plan, which offers a long-term perspective for the country’s growth and development. The NDP is a response to the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The NDP defines our desired destination and identifies the role different sectors of society need to play in reaching that goal. Two relevant priorities of the National Development Plan are:

  1. Raising employment through faster economic development, and
  2. Improving the quality of education, skills development and innovation.

The approach and philosophy towards skills planning is embedded within the principles of the National Development Planning.

This investment to establish the credible skills planning mechanism for South Africa is very important:

Firstly, a well-designed skills planning mechanism will provide better understanding of the supply and demand of skills at both intermediate and professional levels.

Secondly, the mechanism could support government’s economic development strategy and target resources to education and skills areas in most need and thus tackle skills shortages.

Thirdly, it will provide credible information to direct government resources at those skill areas where people are likely to get employment and thus tackle unemployment.

Fourthly, it could improve South Africa’s economic competitiveness and contribute to poverty alleviation.

The LMIP conducted a number of research studies to understand, in greater depth, the supply and demand for skill and the extent to which supply responds appropriately to demand. Our research studies, both quantitative and qualitative, focussed on institutions and individuals and ways in which both could be connected. Our approach was that we needed to build on, adapt and consolidate what we already have, rather than starting afresh.

We reviewed past South African and international practices and drew out lessons that could be applied to the proposed skills planning mechanism.
We had extensive engagements: firstly, with the relevant directorates in the Department of Higher Education and Training; and then, through a series of policy roundtables, with other government departments, SETAs, academic institutions, business and professional organisations. These policy roundtables were a useful forum to share and through robust engagement, to strengthen the research.

So, what does the skills planning research tell us? A few very brief points as these will be highlighted in the subsequent presentations by the researchers themselves.

The LMIP proposes an inclusive socio-economic skills planning approach for South Africa. In this approach we need to read the signals of demand from the economy, government growth strategies and trade and investment policies. In addition we need to focus on raised levels of basic and post school education and training in the country. Government, with partners, would use the Labour Market Information to check for the alignment between government growth initiatives and industrial strategies and an inclusive skills strategy. South Africa will follow this unique approach to reflect our country’s present and future needs as well as our historical circumstances.

Skills’ planning are a very important activity and requires a dedicated space and budget. DHET must establish a Skills Planning Unit and relevant data, information and signals from the economy, education and the labour market will feed into this unit.  This vibrant and cutting edge unit needs to engage regularly with senior staff at DHET, other government departments and social partners to make sense of the relevant knowledge to generate regularised policy supply and demand signals and direction for DHET. 

The Skills Planning architecture needs to be populated with information that is available from present datasets and research needs to suggest further variables to be included in the present instruments and future datasets that need to be generated.  The LMIP reviewed and audited information (including technical platforms and data formats for interfacing and facilitating data exchange between partner institutions) from twenty government departments and entities.  Databases were categorised in four ways in terms of their relevance and usability: 

  1. Relevant and immediately usable datasets,
  2. (Highly relevant and require some modification,
  3. Contain relevant variables but are currently undergoing validation and cleaning before they can be utilised
  4. Early stage of evolution and require further development.

As South Africa builds the skills planning mechanism it is clear that there has been much achieved in the country and we need to strive for greater co-ordination and coherence from what we already have.

Skills planning involves understanding more than the numbers and cannot and must not be seen as simply directing resources in particular directions (like turning on a water faucet) and expecting that we will achieve the desired results. Skills planning a complex  and complicated  - we need to understand the dynamics that shape individual behaviours; the contours and capabilities of institutions that make them act in particular ways; the responsiveness of education and training institutions to the changing demands from firms and workplaces; the changing nature of work and workplaces and the response of the labour market to graduates. Each of these have an impact of the skills formation processes.  This research will be presented by the researchers.

The LMIP is unique in the scale and scope of the research as well as the nature of the collaboration between government/ DHET and the research community. Each sector (government and research) is defined by particular set of requirements and demands. It was a learning experience for both researchers and government workers to negotiate working this research-policy nexus. The research-policy nexus is referred to in the academic literature and many of our international academic colleagues were envious that LMIP researchers were offered the opportunity for this close engagement with policy makers. In South African tradition, with its activist democracy, debates were often loud and hot – however, again in South African tradition, we do come together and it is the end result that matters – the research was enhanced from sometimes tense moments.

Minister we have come a long way in contributing to the building of the skills planning mechanism.  I would again like to express appreciation, on behalf of the Board of the HSRC, the researchers and myself for the trust you have placed in us and inviting the HSRC and its research partners on this skills planning journey. We would also like to express appreciation to DG Qonde for always being a friend of the LMIP. DDG Patel your intellectual and policy guidance, at all times, to the research group has been invaluable in shaping the direction of the LMIP. Please convey similar thanks to all at the DHET and other government department officials as well as to the SETAs and all other social partners who walked the journey with us. I hope that this research does contribute to enhancing skills development in this country.

I thank you.