…Eswatini mulls SETAs model to jump-start skills revolution, fight unemployment
By Nomsa Dlamini
Talk of introducing the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) model in the country has emerged as the movement to usher in a new era of quality education, skills alignment with industry needs, and socio-economic growth gaining momentum.
The SETAs model is widely used in South Africa and plays a pivotal role in shaping the neighbouring country’s workforce by effectively coordinating and promoting skills development within specific sectors.
The movement, led by the Eswatini Higher Education Council (ESHEC) has also set its sights on ensuring that higher education institutions equip graduates with competitive and relevant skills to meet current and future national and global demands.
This transpired during the inaugural Eswatini Fundzela Indaba 2023 which was held at the Royal Villas in Ezulwini, yesterday.
The cross-section of stakeholders discussed key issues facing higher education in the country and suggested practical solutions for the provision of an industry-ready curriculum to drive innovation, competitiveness, and industrialisation.
Mangaliso Mohammed from the Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (ESEPARC) made a presentation on the issue of SETAs, and the idea of establishing Sector Skills Training Institutions in Eswatini.
The stretch goal is also to explore how Eswatini through the SETA model could promote an enabling environment for professional bodies and industry involvement towards closing the skills gap, mismatch and creation of emerging skills.
According to a presentation by ESEPARC, the idea is to develop a series of sector skills plans within a clearly defined framework of the national skills development programme.
It transpired that as of 2023 in South Africa, SETAs have created 572,345 opportunities for skills development and education. The SETAs are providing training for 96,317 artisans and 124,925 learners in apprenticeship programmes.
The bigger SETAs in South Africa include the Services SETA, Wholesale and Retail SETA, Agri SETA and Finance SETA.
Participants at the Eswatini Fundzela Indaba 2023, agreed that this is a route worth pursuing in the ongoing efforts to improve the country’s skills bourse and rejuvenate economic growth.
Among the various ways to operationalise the SETAs model is to agree among all stakeholders to introduce a grant levy in which employers and industry players pay a certain amount towards a Fund. The bulk of the money is used to provide the necessary training and skills development for citizens.
A POSSIBLE SETAs ROADMAP FOR ESWATINI
Whilst the issue of SETAs may not be a ‘silver bullet’ to solve the high unemployment rate and skills mismatch for industry, many agree that it is a route worth pursuing and testing.
* In Eswatini there must be strengthening of efforts to empower the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector to further provide plenty of employment opportunities, particularly for the youth to be employed or be self-employed.
* There should be an intentional focus on TVET-based skills to feed into agro-processing, manufacturing, construction, green energy, climate change specialists, maintenance, electronics, and automation.
* It should be understood that general degrees are not sufficient anymore, and young people should be encouraged to strive to be specialists in a field chosen and have an ICT-related component to their qualification. These, according to ESEPARC, need focused training.
It should be emphasised that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and Professional fields present many opportunities especially when linked with ICT-related qualifications to support industrialisation and service delivery.
A number of participants observed that collective effort from all people in the country remained crucial in ensuring the success of the efforts towards skills development. They noted that addressing skills shortages in Eswatini was far from just a government concern, but it impacts directly on the present and future achievements of businesses, big and small.
IN A NUTSHELL
Industry-specific SETAs should be considered for Eswatini in order to:
• Identify skills development needs in each sector;
• Facilitate the development and implementation of strategic sector skills development plans;
• Develop and administer learnerships that go beyond ‘blue-collar’ trades;
• Undertake quality assurance to ensure training providers meet the agreed standards for education and training within the national qualifications framework; and to pay out grants.
The Eswatini Higher Education Council (ESHEC) is a government entity established by the Higher Education Act of 2013. Its mandate includes the promotion, accreditation, coordination and determination of higher education in Eswatini. Among its many responsibilities within the higher education space, ESHEC is entrusted with formulating policies pertaining to higher education and provides expert advice to the Minister of Education and Training (MoET) on all matters related to higher education.
Since its establishment as a parastatal in August 2022, ESHEC has undertaken institutional and programme assessments for various higher education institutions. ESHEC presently has about 50 registered higher education institutions in Eswatini.