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Opening remarks by Deputy President David Mabuza at the virtual Meeting of the Human Resource Development Council

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Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, 
Honourable Premiers and MECs in attendance, 
HRDC Secretariat,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for joining us on this virtual platform for the first meeting of the Human Resources Development Council  for the year. This meeting takes place after exactly a year since the country went on nationwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This has been a challenging time for everyone in terms of adjusting our way of life according to the dictates of the new conditions that are imposed by this coronavirus. Of greater challenge, is the altered way of conducting business and the resultant impact on the economy including the disruption of global value chains. These disruptions have come to define our ability to adapt, to be flexible and to be resilient in the face of the changing tide of world of work.  

We have lost a lot of ground in terms of job creation and skills development due to this pandemic. Whilst we have had to focus on the healthcare response to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, including initiatives towards mass vaccination, we equally have to focus our attention to the implementation of economic recovery and reconstruction programmes.

The economy is undergoing severe strain leading to closure of businesses leading to job losses. This is the moment to act decisively to rebuild our economy through targeted investments in critical and new skills that will promote innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The lessons from the current Covid-19 pandemic, point to a world’s workforce going remote in their operations, or at least adopting the hybrid model. Therefore, businesses are streamlining their operations by outsourcing key job roles to meet the changing market trends that we must build on. 

Such technological disruptions have an equal impact on the current set of jobs in the market. Of course, we have to embrace these developments as necessitated by the crisis we find ourselves in. This means that part of our adaptation response must include accelerated training and skills development, in order to keep up with the pace of change, bearing in mind that even jobs that were considered as vocational, are now becoming high tech and require specialised knowledge and skills. This context is not anecdotal, but reflects the reality that currently obtains.

Therefore, our deliberations on what needs to be done to respond to the current challenges, must also be mindful of the dictates of the Future of Work, which requires of us to adapt to the changing environment in the workplace. This means embracing digitisation, upgrading workforce planning and reskilling, targeting high growth sectors and roles, as well as finding opportunities for entrepreneurship. These dictates are not new, as we discussed them at length at the December 2020 Council meeting.

Regularly transforming and developing the people as our country’s strategic resource, is at the centre of ensuring we revitalise work and lifelong learning for the 21st century.

It is encouraging that there are green shoots, emerging in our country to address youth unemployment and underemployment. One of the sectors that shines a positive light on our multi-tiered interventions, is the business process outsourcing or call centres. This sector has absorptive capacity, but it is also moving towards automated services that increases demand for skilled labour with specialised training.

According to a study by Deloitte, in 2014 we accounted for 1 percent of the global business process outsourcing and this is expected to be 4 percent of global revenues by 2030. These call centres offer employment opportunities for young people with niche skills in finance and accounting, digital economy, human resource and healthcare among others. 

The contribution of these skills in the economy, complement occupations like artisans, toolmakers, metal machinist, mechanics and others, as identified in the National List of Occupations in High Demand that which contribute to lowering joblessness and economic growth. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must also appreciate the work done by the Department of Science and Innovation, which is making investment in technological advancement through smart investments in research and development. The Department is supporting South African industry to grow and create more jobs through building scientific, technological and knowledge-based capabilities. It is also playing a critical role in building the required base to respond to future pandemics through home grown platforms for vaccines development. 

We wish to emphasise this point that our work as the HRDC, working with social partners, should seek to be aligned in a manner that allows for convergence across various components of the HRDC. That is why in this meeting, we have invited our Premiers as chairpersons of their respective Provincial HRD Councils. 

It is critical that national skills development programmes are seamlessly integrated with provincial initiatives to maximise the deployment of available resources to achieve better outcomes. More importantly, we should aim to deepen collaborative partnerships with social partners across all Provinces.

In the process, we should be able to identify pockets of excellence, share notes on areas of focus based on the comparative advantages of each province. Our task is to ensure that in each province we build a sustainable pool and pipeline of skills that meet the industry needs. 

Best practice training and skills development initiatives in provinces must be shared, scaled up, and consolidated into a national programme that sets out our agenda for innovation and development. 

Our tasks and responsibilities go beyond simply fulfilling our individual and institutional mandates. As a multi-stakeholder advisory body, the HRDC must be seized with stewardship of policies and programmes focused on addressing equity and redress. We are confident that the reviewed country human resources strategy will align to this redress.  

Our EXCO members are called upon to diligently monitor and oversee the execution of Council decisions like those raised at the December 2020 Council meeting. Equally, the newly nominated HRDC Champions are called upon to provide focused leadership in various areas of their expertise and experience.

Finally, allow me to acknowledge and welcome all the new members of the Executive Committee who are coming from different sectors, as well as the appointment of Mr Bheki Ntshalintshali and Ms Azola Mayekiso as Deputy Chairpersons representing labour and business respectively. We have full confidence in your diverse expertise and experience and wish you all the best.   

With these few remarks, the HRDC meeting is open. 

I thank you.