Is the tail wagging the dog when it comes to industrial training

10 Sep 2018



Following the article published in The Star Workplace on 9th September 2015, by consultant and radio host, Ivor Blumenthal, based on a discussion he had  with the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA) as to whether industry was receiving value for money from training skills levy, or whether employers were being ripped off, the SAPMA office has been inundated with phone calls and emails.

The calls have come from all sectors of SAPMA membership categories, all endorsing Ivor Blumenthal's view point: that employers are indeed being ripped off when it comes to the skills levies they are forced to pay.

The callers raise a myriad of concerns ranging from:

  • The cumbersome red tape in trying to procure a discretionary grant from any SETA;
  • The ambiguous procedural demands by the SETAs;
  • The prescription as to which training courses the employees must undergo-  despite the fact that such training may not suit the industry;
  • The stipulation that only SETA-accredited courses may be attended;
  • The directive that only SETA-approved training providers can be used;
  • The system whereby only a percentage of the cost of training will be reimbursed;
  • The ruling that discretionary grants are only available to companies submitting Work Skills Development Plans to the appropriate SETA; and
  • The fact that many companies totally ignore the so-called benefits of the skills levy and consider the levy as yet another form of taxation on their operations.

Ivor Blumenthal points out in his article how the skills levy has been skewed against employers in favour of labour and the Government, despite the fact that the levy is paid by business and should accordingly be seen exclusively as what the business community is doing to improve skills in their specific industry and for the country.

The levy is not paid for by labour or deducted from wages. It is paid by the employer. Despite this fact, as Blumenthal so correctly states, business immediately loses all control of the funds accumulating from the levy. Yet the act which introduced the skills levy, made it clear that business and labour would jointly control the destiny of these funds.

Business, in paying the levies, are entitled to nominate and prescribe to the SETAs, as to what skills and training their businesses require in order to upskill their workforce and ultimately improve productivity and profit in order to drive the economy.

It is not for politicians to make unilateral decisions as to who will sit on the various  boards or chambers and control SETAs

I have repeatedly been advised by SAPMA members that the mandatory training levies paid into the coffers of the Retail and Wholesale SETA for example, are not aiding and assisting the Paint Retailer in particular, since none of the training courses provided by the Retail and Wholesale SETA  are relevant to the PAINT retail and wholesale sector.

It is for this reason that SAPMA has been campaigning that the decision making process, regarding training requirements, should be in the hands of the industrial sector that requires the training and not dictated by the SETAs. The training levy was introduced to accelerate training and to formalise the training process. We have no issue with that, but it is imperative that the funds accumulated from a business sector be spent on the training in the same sector and here I refer to training that is required by that sector and not just for the sake of training.

It is industry's money and industry should have the right to decide where and how the money should be spent.

We should not be told by the SETAs as to who we can train, who we cannot train, and what training programmes we should use.

This interpretation was further recently endorsed by the outgoing Minister of Higher Education & Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, who stated at the opening of the recent Coatings for Africa 2015 Conference in Johannesburg: “Training should be driven by the Coatings Industry itself, because it has the necessary expertise and knowhow for the task, and the SETAs must assist in this regard.”

My message to SAPMA industry and retail members is: You decide what training your employees require, in order to meet the ever increasing challenges faced by your company and industry. Do not be dictated to. It is after all your money.