The South African Brics Business Council Skills Development Working Group (SDWG) was invited to participate in a conference on Skills Needs Anticipation and TVET management at the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo in Moscow,

Presenting on Best practices in skills needs anticipation, Sherrie Donaldson represented the SDWG. The requirement for skills needs anticipation is best described in the following diagram, 

The world around us is changing and is influencing the nature of work and the types of skills needed to do this work. If we do not understand, the changes and respond to them skills mismatches will continue to grow. A number of key trends affect the extent of skills mismatches:

  • Demographic changes 
    • The impact varies in developed and developing countries with different ages of population groups. This means that that young people need to have appropriate skills that attract investment and create jobs, while older workers must continue to learn and upgrade their skills.
  • Levels of educational attainment have increased significantly in most countries. This results in more availability of talent for employers but less jobs available for low skilled workers
  • Globalization and trade liberalization has had the following impacts
    • Made the availability of suitably qualified workers a determining factor in foreign investment decisions. 
    • Enabled labour to become more mobile internationally affecting migration and changing demand for skills, e.g. foreign languages and QA in international standards
  • Work organization is also changing, e.g. flatter organizational structures, online work and less “perm” work, increasing the need for skills such as teamwork, initiative, leadership, management skills, and interpersonal and intercultural communication skills.
  • Technology development and innovation increases the demand for higher-level skills not only among the most highly skilled, who contribute to innovation, research and development, but also among workers who are instrumental in the operation and maintenance of new technologies.
  • Climate change and the transition to the green economy changes demand with new technologies

Different countries face different challenges and it becomes intuitive that countries will have different reasons for doing skills needs anticipation. Additionally, they will also require different outcomes based on their unique circumstances. E.g., one country may focus on occupational employment and another on replacement skills. In South Africa, we face the challenge of delivering on dual needs, ie to drive inclusive development and grow the economy. 

In analysing the South African context, three main types of skills and labour mismatches have been identified, these are

  • demand mismatch, 
  • educational- supply mismatch and 
  • Qualifications- job mismatch. 

These are described in more detail below:

  • Demand mismatch examines the types of jobs being created, and the skills set and expectations of the working-age population. In South Africa, the economy and labour market show a demand for high-skilled workers, but there is a surplus of low-skilled workers. 
  • Educational supply mismatch examines the type of skills produced by different levels of education and training systems, and the degree to which they respond to skills demand in specific occupations. In South Africa, we require higher numbers of STEM graduates from both universities and TVET colleges and additionally there is a need for higher enrolments and completions rates in the building and construction, almost all the trades programmes.
  • Qualification-job mismatch is the gap between the type of qualifications required by workers in medium and higher level occupations to perform their job effectively, and the actual type of qualifications held by those in such occupations. Research in South Africa s revealed that less than half of managers, senior officials, technicians and associate professionals had a tertiary level qualification.  

South Africa needs appropriate models for skills planning that take into account the challenges of economic growth and inclusive development in South Africa.

  • Skills planning is not only about matching supply and demand in the formal private and public sector more effectively (which is a difficult task in and of itself, given the data challenges in SA), but also about taking into account past structural inequalities on the basis of race, gender and spatial location. The skills planning focus is not only for a small number of skilled people in the workplace, but also on the unemployed, the youth, low- skilled people, the marginalised, and those in vulnerable forms of employment, including people who work for themselves. 
  • Increasing growth rates will contribute to absorption of people, pulling them into productive sectors and allowing continuing skills development to take place via sectoral bodies. 
  • We need to respond to the mismatches identified with appropriate policy instruments and ensure implementation of / action on these. These policies should include the following
    • Basic and higher education improvements – especially in ICT and STEM
    • Continuation of implementation of data collection strategies
    • Increased co-ordination between skills and industrial growth policies 
  • Stakeholders need to be engaged and move from individual positions towards a common goal

Sherrie Donaldson

Secretariat South African Brics Business Council Skills Development Working Group

CEO African Innovators