Challenges facing the Skills Development Facilitators in the implementation of skills development interventions


Executive summary

Skills development in South African municipalities is in a potential crisis. The findings of the research conducted by the School of Public Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch, suggest that Skills Development Facilitators (SDFs) are not the sole cause of poor skills development practices in municipalities.

The challenges to skills development within the municipal environment are concentrated on six levels.

Knowledge pertaining to ethical values that support skills development

Responses from all respondent groups illustrated that municipalities, in general, do not acknowledge the ethical values that support skills development as a key element of Human Resource Development (HRD) policies and strategies.

Although management in most cases has identified HRD values, these values are not sufficiently known by the HR department and employees. Municipalities are not actively supporting skills development and there is an apparent consensus among the municipal actors (line managers, HR departments and employees) that skills development is not a priority in the municipalities. It is concluded that municipalities do not practice these skills development values, do not act with integrity on HRD and the municipal actors do not collaborate to achieve skills development goals and consequently do not feel positive and part of the HRD and skills development processes.

Weak/poor awareness and understanding of HRD policy/plan by employees

The policy environment established a strong awareness of an HRD policy/plan at municipalities, however, the awareness amongst employees is considered to be very low. Testing the link between the strategic objectives of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and HRD, only the HRD staff was shown to have a strong knowledge thereof. In general, there is a weak link between skills development, employment equity and performance management. Furthermore, the policies do not sufficiently address the assessment process of learners, nor formal and informal skills development options. Finally, even in the case where municipalities do have an HRD policy/plan in place, the perception exists that the policy does not benefit all employees of the municipality.

Poor practising of skills development by municipalities

Generally, skills development is poorly practised within many municipalities. Skills audits and needs analysis are often poorly conducted; and in the event that skills audits are done, skills development interventions are frequently not undertaken in line with these audits. Formal and informal approaches to skills development are not applied, with a general lack of the opportunities for employees to practice new competencies, after skills development interventions. In general, the IDP process was found to not feed into the Workplace Skills Plan (WSP); with a strong absence of coherent and agreed procedures for skills development practice in many municipalities.

Lack of departmental skills plans

The organisation of skills development planning and implementation indicates a consensus amongst the municipal actors that skills development facilitation is the shared responsibility of the HR department, line managers and employees. Of great concern is the general lack of departmental skills plans that are not effectively monitored by accountable line managers.

Ineffective functioning of consultative committees

The research concluded that the consultative committees are not sufficiently giving input into all matters on skills development, they are not actively involved in the promotion of skills development and employees are not receiving regular feedback on matters pertaining to their skills development. Line managers, employees and the trade unions are not sufficiently involved in the drafting of the WSP. Although all municipal actors indicated that they are the champions of their own development, the general absence of a personal development plan for staff is noted.

Poor support by stakeholders

The skills development support received by other municipal stakeholders such as senior management, the local trade unions, the LGSETA and SALGA was considered. The responses clearly illustrated a general lack of active support from senior management in skills development needs analysis and implementation initiatives in many municipalities. The same is true for the perceived lack of skills development support by trade unions, the LGSETA and SALGA.

The skills audit of the SDFs indicates that most of the respondents are qualified and experienced SDFs. In terms of functionality, the SDFs rated themselves exceptionally high. These ratings stand in stark contrast to their consistent low ratings by line managers and employees. This implies that the service provided by the SDF is not experienced in a positive manner by the larger municipal corps. When evaluated on their facilitative skills and knowledge, the SDFs again rated themselves very high with concomitant low ratings from managers and employees.

Evaluating the behaviour of SDFs and their professional and task orientation, again, the SDFs rate their proficiency at a much higher level than that experienced by the broader municipal corps. In general, the findings show a disjuncture between the perception of SDFs of their competence and that experienced by the larger municipal corps, particularly those outside the HR circle.

It is clear that the challenges for skills development facilitation in municipalities are immense, considering the rapid transformation of the public sector, which has placed renewed emphasis on the employees in the municipalities to be capacitated with the required competencies to meet the ever-increasing demands of citizens, especially in the local government sphere.

The proposed strategy for municipal skills development needs analysis, planning and facilitation needs to be managed in an integrated management way, with the collaboration, cooperation, coordination and capacity for joint action of the municipal actors (HR department, line managers and employees) with appropriate external expertise, where necessary.

The collaborative management strategy for skills development is dependent on the municipality having in place human resource development structures that support the strategic objectives of the municipality.

In turn, this is dependent on how the HRD (skills development) function is organised through the structure, triad approach, collaborative drivers and collaborative components. In this framework, the employees are not passive recipients but must participate actively in the process, thereby entrenching internal democracy.At the centre of the Collaborative Framework for Human Resource Development is a set of ethical values.

A fundamental assumption of collaborative HRD (skills development) is that the core municipal actors have the functional and collaborative competence to enable them to commit to achieving measurable HRD (skills development) outcomes.

These competencies are defined in this strategy and the outcomes defined that, if effectively implemented, will lead to renewed municipal competence to deliver cost-effective human resource development and performance management that result in a change in the overall management culture of skills development in South African municipalities.

Research commissioned by the Local Government SETA (LGSETA) and conducted by the University of Stellenbosch.

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