Janet Loubser and Mark Freeman of SSI Environmental reported on the perceived skills shortage in the Environmental Sector. The report confirms inadequacy, lack of skills and a high staff turnover. The high vacancy rate is a reflection of the small supply of appropriately skilled people in the market place.
• High turnover rates in the environmental sector, leading to lack of institutional memory and inefficiency in the system. Staff turnover is essentially as a result of a small supply of appropriate skilled and qualified people.
• High vacancy rates in the biodiversity sector. 34% of core biodiversity staff hold positions for which they are under-qualified.
• No environmental SETA: According to the Skills Development Act No. 97 of 1998, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) must develop skills development plans for various sectors within the framework of the national skills development strategy. SETAs are to establish learnerships, approve workplace plans, allocate grants to employers, provide training, and monitor the education and training in the sector. Currently there is no specific environmental SETA, but because environmental management skills cut across so many different sectors, the DEA issued an enabling document for all SETAs to include those skills into their development plans. In addition, a new Energy and Water SETA will deal with many environmental skills.
• Environmental skills are not included in the National Skills Development Strategy II (NSDS II). In June 2010, the DEA made a submission to the National Skills Authority (NSA) to include environmental and sustainability education and training in the NSDS III.
• There are critical skills which are in demand in the environmental sector. These include leadership, sustainable development planning, risk management, environmental monitoring and compliance (inspection), specialist skills, climate change assessment, information communications and technology, environmental law and policy, environmental ethics and social justice policy, and education, mentoring, and training. The Department of Labour does not include all of the environmental sector’s needs on its Scarce Skills list.
• Management skills in demand: skills necessary for effective management are in demand. These include report and business writing, people management skills, analytical and communication skills, organisational skills, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
• Professional registration requirement: Currently there is no official registration body for environmental practitioners. The establishment of a Registration Authority for Environmental Assessment Practitioners will include an important component - the registration of a qualification for environmental assessment practice within the National Qualifications Framework in collaboration with the SAQA. Environmental Assessment Practitioners’ Association of South Africa (EAPASA) was launched in April 2011 and will apply to be recognised as the official registration authority for EAPs. See Subtheme 5 for a more detail on EAPASA.
• South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA): SAQA is charged with advancing the National Qualification Framework (NQF), standardised guidelines to measure learner achievement. SAQA helped develop the criteria for EAPASA certification, which marks a significant step in setting baseline criteria and a national standard for the EAP profession.
• Green Economy: There is a need to develop capacity for integrating, and strategic plans being developed for the green economy and green job development must consider the cost of skills development. The regime requires pro-active skills development to ensure capacity.