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S. Africa business urged to partner with government to invest in education

Jan 21, 2013

JOHANNESBURG, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- South Africa businesses should partner with the government to invest in education to help deal with low education standard and skills development in the country, AstroTech Chief Executive Officer said on Monday.

Based in Johannesburg AstroTech is one of South Africa's premier training institutes. It was established in 1998 and provides management, business skills and human resources training.

Liza van Wyk said while South Africa patted itself on the back about improved matric results, world organizations have said "it's not enough." The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which says, "skills are the global currency of the 21st century," gives a long list of failures in South Africa regarding education, Wyk said in a statement.

"It's not just government that is being lax about South African skills development, business is also not doing enough to create the conditions for innovation, productivity, and profitability," he added.

South Africa spent only 4.8 percent of its annual income on education in 2009, compared to the OECD average of 6.2 percent.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in its 2012-13 World Competitiveness Report ranked South Africa second last in terms of maths and science education - only just ahead of Yemen.

It ranked South Africa 133rd out of 142 countries in terms of the quality of its educational system.

Only 54.3 percent of South African women are active in the workforce, compared to 71 percent elsewhere.

Trade union Solidarity says only half of those with only a matric in South Africa are employed compared to 80 percent of those with some higher education.

"Companies should consider internal training, especially with regard to already skilled individuals to get them to the level required by line management," said Stella Carthy, head of skills development at the Chamber of Mines (CoM).

"We have seen a trend over the last two or three years for companies to ask us to send trainers to them so that more people can be trained on the company premises with less down time for travel and no accommodation costs," Wyk said.

She said big companies in South Africa are sensitive to the importance of ongoing training at every level of the workforce, but there needs to be a broader vision.

"Ultimately we all play a role in the education of young people, and the ongoing education of our workforce; to have a maths and science ranking just above that of an impoverished nation like Yemen means we have lost our way as a nation," Wyk said.

"We can't wait for government to remedy the situation, we all need to become involved, now," she added.