ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION, DR BLADE NZIMANDE ON THE OCCASION OF FUEL RETAILERS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE Thursday, 9 June 2022

Programme Director;

President of Fuel Retailers Association (FRA), Mr Mike Motsoane;

Vice President of FRA, Mr George Nkosi;

FRA Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the W&R SETA;

FRA Board Members;

W&R SETA CEO, Mr Tom Mkhwanazi and Board Members present;

International Speakers – Henry O. Armour, President/CEO of National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) & Mark Wohltmann, Director NACS Europe;

Distinguished Guests;

Members of the media;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

Good Morning

 

It is with great pleasure, that I am invited to address the Fuel Retailers Association Conference which is held under the theme: ‘Unity in Action – Building New Capabilities’. 

 

 

This conference is also taking place as we celebrate the 46th anniversary of the 16 June 1976 student uprising in Soweto and in many parts of our country, where young people protested against apartheid education, especially the racist and insensitive imposition of Afrikaans by the apartheid regime as a medium of instruction for all black students.

 

This year’s celebration is held under theme: “Promoting sustainable livelihood and resilience of young people for a better tomorrow”.

 

At the heart of the challenge for PSET is to cater for these youth in our college system, with vocational education and training as the most important point of access.

 

Let me indicate that our goals and objectives are implemented through our new landscape of higher education, science and innovation (HESI), facilitated by President Cyril Ramaphosa decision to place the Departments of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) under one Ministry.

 

This new landscape opens up the opportunities for both these sectors to contribute towards and inclusive economic growth path in our country that addresses the structural challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. 

 

This new landscape has now brought under one umbrella very crucial Post School and Training institutions and the Science and Innovation entities in driving the new HESI landscape and our economic growth and development agenda.

 

Ladies and gentlemen

 

The Fuel Retail Sector is one of the most critical sectors as we reconstruct and recover our economy from the COVID-19 global health pandemic, especially that this sector has about 5 000 Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) employing over 83 000 people.

 

I am aware that the fuel retailers continue to face a very slow recovery on volumes sold, and slow sales in their convenience stores due to sluggish consumer spending and people travelling less because of alternative ways of work and meetings. This is also perpetuated by the rampant illegal trading and the increases in the price of fuel increases. 

 

I believe with the continuous engagements between government and the FRA and the broader South Africa population, a solution will be found in this regard.

 

Having said that, I am happy that most of Fuel Retailers in South Africa, which are predominantly small companies, employing 0 - 49 people, are registered with the W&RSETA.

 

Having the Fuel Retailers Association (FRA) organised in this sector will go a long way to address some of the challenges experienced by the sector, which includes the necessity to coordinate skills for the sector and the overall transformation drive of the sector, which should encourage the entrance of new historically disadvantaged individuals into the sector.

 

Chairperson

 

This conference is also taking place at the time when two important reports have been released by Statistician General on 31 May 2022 and 7 June 2022, Quarterly Labour Force Survey and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

 

Both these reports indicating that  there are some improvements on a number of areas with regard to our socio-economic development, since the President launched the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) in October 2022, especially on positive economic growth and small increase in jobs.

 

The ERRP directed all of us, to prioritise economic development areas which includes:

 

  • Infrastructure Investment and Delivery;
  • Industrialisation through Localisation;
  • Energy Security; Support for the Recovery and Growth of Tourism, and Cultural and Creative Industries;
  • Green Economy Interventions;
  • Mass Public Employment Interventions and Strengthening Agriculture and Food Security.

 

As reported by the Statistician General, our economy grew by 1.9% in the first quarter of 2022, with eight (8) industries reported positive growth, with the exception of Construction; Mining & Quarrying, which recorded negative growth at - 0.7% and -1.1% respectively.

 

At the same time, we observe in the same quarter (1st quarter of 2022) that about 370 000 jobs were created across all provinces with the exception of the KwaZulu-Natal which lost about 53 000. This implies that unemployment dropped from 36.3% to 34.5%.

 

However, we continue to observed an increase in the number of those not in employment, education and/or training (NEETS).  For example, up to 3.8 million young people between 15 to 24 years are not in school and are unemployed. 

 

This is an area where FRA should strongly collaborate with W&R SETA, especially in ensuring that the sector attracts lots of the youth and that we facilitate workplace-based learning and training programmes for them.

 

I must indicate that government cannot solve the growing unemployment crisis alone. This is the reason why we want to partner with organisations such as FRA because we both have a major role to play in restoring the dignity and offering a glimmer of hope to South Africa’s youth and struggling SMMEs who are fighting for survival and a better future.

 

This is amongst the reasons that as government we took a decision to scale-up workplace-based learning programmes in order for us to inject the necessary skills toward rebuilding our economy. For us to do so, we need to open up our companies and turn our work places into training spaces. This is also to your own advantage and benefit to identify best amongst the trainees and to produce a core of skilled workers.

 

As a Department of Higher Education and Training, in our own Annual Performance Plan (APP), we have increased our targets with regard to Work-based Learning (WBL) programmes from   78 317 in 2020 / 21 to 107 000 in 2022 / 23. This includes learnerships, internships and work integrated learning (WIL).

 

The President in his State of the Nation Address (SoNA) committed that we place 10 000 TVET graduates. As the department we have committed to place additional 5 000 TVET graduates.

 

We are working very closely with our SETAs in order to achieve these targets.

 

The Fuel Retail Sector, with more than 5 000 SMMEs, have a huge role to play in our WBL programmes, particularly to open up placement opportunities for our Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates. This is because our TVET colleges mainly train young people to develop skills, knowledge and attitudes that are needed in the labour market.

 

 

I will be very happy in this conference if FRA members makes a firm commitment open up workplaces within the Fuel Retail Sector.  Our W&R SETA, will continue to work very close with yourselves to ensure that you receive the necessary support.

 

I will also be hosting the TVET/Industry Partnerships Summit from the 28 to 29 June 2022, which is critical in upscaling placement especially for those programmes requiring work integrated learning (WIL)for students to complete the qualification. You are invited to this important occasion.

 

One of the challenges that we need to confront head-on, is the number of students who enter our university system, as a proportion of those who started Grade 1. 

 

Out of hundred (100) students, only twelve (12) access our university system, and only six (6) complete with four (4) with a degree.

 

This clearly indicates that there are many young people who are lost through the system. We therefore need to cater for these students for us to expand our post school opportunities.

 

This can only be possible with strong industry partnerships especially with organised employers, like FRA.

 

I must indicate that through government funding, we are already funding a substantial number of learners in our institutions.  Out of 1 110 361 university enrolments, 76.6% and out of 508 445 TVET college enrolments, 98% are funded through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

 

Another important part of our work is that we are prioritising artisan development.

 

You might be aware that our target is to produce 30 000 artisans per annum by 2030.  This will not be possible without employers collaborating with us.

 

South Africa needs at least 60% of school leavers to pursue artisanal type training to meet the country’s demand for scarce skills. We honestly need to do more to encourage school leavers to pursue technical trades.

 

With the rise of digital transformation and artificial intelligence causing a disruption in industries, many jobs may no longer exist in the near future. However, there will always be jobs for artisans due the technical skillset required to fix machines if they break down, for example.

 

Becoming an artisan is a springboard to other careers such as in business, management or entrepreneurship.

 

As artisan training is usually completed in two and a half years, their technical training offers a quicker access to full-time employment, with apprentices often getting an apprenticeship with a company most likely in their first year. This means they can also start earning an income sooner or start their own businesses.

 

This is amongst the reason why I increased the Apprenticeship Learner Grant from R165 000 to R206 290 from 1 April 2021,  to encourage employers hosting apprentices to open up their workplaces.

 

Since we launched our Centres of Specialisation, we currently managed to establish eight (8) trade test centres in some of our colleges.  This will be expanded to other colleges especially in our rural areas. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Through the FRA Membership Skills Development Initiative,  the W&RSETA has allocated R60 million towards this programme where 1 000 learnerships and 400 skills programmes are made available for unemployed youth.

 

I value this project as it ensures that our young people are engaged in some form of socio-economic activities.

 

In the 2021/22 financial year, about R1 million was allocated to 111 small and medium enterprises through the Small Medium Enterprise Discretionary Grants to implement various skills development interventions to address  individual skills needs of such enterprises.

 

The FRA has also received an allocation of about thirty-five (35) unemployed learnerships from the W&RSETA’s Discretionary Funding in 2021/22  to the value of R2,2 million.

 

The W&RSETA has invested R21 million towards the Service Station Readiness Programme which has 1000 beneficiaries. These include current fuel retailers to expand their businesses, budding retailers to enter the industry as well as individuals who wish to occupy managerial positions in the sector.

 

Programme Director

 

On science, technology and innovation collaboration, if you have not done it already, I urge the FRA to form a dedicated STI working group to harness new technologies and invest in research and development in support of your businesses. This is another very important message I am leaving with you today! I am prepared to make available our STI institutions within the DSI to work with you on this score!

 

Beyond this, we are firmly committed to leveraging both public and private resources to increase gross domestic investment in research and development within this sector.

 

In conclusion, let me take this opportunity to thank FRA, its Leadership and Members for inviting me and our SETAs, at the time during which we need each other to massify skills development in your sector and our country as a whole.

 

I am looking forward for more collaboration with the FRA to grow our economy, skill your sector and make South Africa a better country for all.

 

I wish you a great and successful conference !!!

 

Thank you

footer

Switchboard: +27 12 843 6300
DSI Building (Building No. 53)
(CSIR South Gate Entrance)  
Meiring Naudé Road, Brummeria  
Private Bag X894, Pretoria
South Africa
© 2021 Department of Science and Innovations . All Rights Reserved.