The office of the Deputy President has reiterated that the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa) which aims to develop the skills that are most urgently needed in the country has not failed.

“Jipsa has been successful, promoting several strong interventions to ensure that the shortage is less severe than it would have been,” the Presidency said.

“Jipsa has prioritised the skills development process, has mobilised and aligned the efforts of major public and private sector role players behind mutually agreed priorities and has unblocked various obstacles to speeding up skills acquisition,” said the Presidency, adding that it still fully supports Jipsa.

Last month, government announced that Jipsa would be incorporated into the recently approved the Human Resource Development Strategy of South Africa (HRD-SA) which would be launched in March 2009, which would fall under the aegis of the Department of Education (DoE).

The HRD-SA would be done in such a way as to sustain a high level of private-sector involvement, however Jipsa will continue until March 2010.

“Jipsa continues to operate and has the full support of the South African Government, the Jipsa Joint Task Team and the key social partners such as the business sector, organised labour and the academic community,” said the Presidency, adding that it has also secured funding for its secretariat by the business trust until the end of March 2010.

Elaborating on the incorporation, the Presidency explained that the HRD-SA will be a more permanent and comprehensive national human resource development strategy as compared to Jipsa which was an urgent and short term response to the skills needs in the country.

Government started Jipsa to develop the skills that were most urgently needed since many people were poor and jobless because they did not have skills.

Jipsa's aim was primarily to address scarce skills shortages; however the HRD-SA would deal with all spectres of training, from enhancing maths and science education in schools to the training of teachers.

Headed by the Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Jipsa operated for two-and-a-half years, because its stakeholders, being CEOs, chairs of companies, trade union federation leaders, government ministers, the Deputy President, professional bodies and education sector leaders continue to agree that the intervention was working well.

Contained in the JIPSA 2007 report released in April, through agreements between government and the private sector, over 18 000 artisans have been registered, while an additional 20 000 artisans are expected to be registered in the 2008-2009 period.

An important element of the artisan training programme - that of quality assurance - is to be overseen by the artisan moderation body, Indlela ("Road"), which will signal the level of necessary skill needed in these various posts to grow the economy.

The international programme is proceeding apace, with international placement programmes providing South Africans with the necessary, international-level skills to assist government's commitment to a better life for all.

An increasing number of young female professionals were receiving international placements, taking government's international partnerships "from strength to strength".

On the domestic level, the Umsobomvu Youth Fund has made a grant available to enable a further 250 unemployed young people to join the Monyetla programme.

The Monyetla programme is a joint pilot training partnership programme between the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Labour and the Business Trust.

This will help 1 000 young, unemployed people to be trained as call centre agents, which is a growing industry in South Africa with vast potential for job creation and skills upgrading.

Meanwhile, the Siyenze Manje programme - designed to attract retired professionals back to the labour market - has led to 118 highly-skilled professionals being recruited to assist over 100 municipalities with various technical and financial expertise.

While these numbers may seem small, the impact of these skills on the municipalities will greatly assist their ability to proceed with the acceleration of infrastructure and investment programmes.

The government has full confidence that the Jipsa mandate will be delivered by all the key stakeholders and the Jipsa structures such as the Joint Task Team, the Technical Working Group and the Secretariat.

According to the Presidency, the Minister of Education would shortly release draft plans for a HRDS-SA, for public consultation, were the Jipsa stakeholders and project owners will provide valued and informed input into this process.

If public consultations result in an approach that is sufficiently agreeable to all parties including Cabinet, it is hoped that the HRDS-SA will be launched next year.

It is expected that many of the successful elements of Jipsa would be incorporated into the HRDS-SA, including stakeholder involvement at the top level.

Following the initiation of the HRDS-SA, the Jipsa secretariat would operate parallel to HRDS-SA for about a year, and will wind down its activities when its stakeholders are satisfied with the capacity of the HRDS-SA to carry out all the relevant activities that Jipsa has been responsible for.