Universities South Africa (USAf) News Update

The learnership programme for insourced security personnel at universities is lauded a success

The first cohort of trainees drawn from universities' security officers who were absorbed into universities as part of a sector-wide insourcing initiative completed their learnerships in 2020, thanks to the intervention of the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA). SASSETA sponsored this training as a response to a request made by Universities South Africa's Human Resources Directors' Forum (HRDF) and the Skills Development Facilitators (SDF) Forum in 2017, to assist with the capacitation of insourced security officers.

Of the 105 security personnel who were enrolled on this – Phase one of the programme in 2019, 85 had completed and satisfied the requirements of the learnership and obtained a National Certificate in General Security Practices. This entry-level qualification, equivalent to NQF Level 3, offers the key competencies required by security professionals to work in a variety of security contexts.

Mr Basiami Disipi

At the first sitting in March 2021 of the HRDF, Mr Basiami Disipi (left), Acting specialist: Skills Development Facilitator at the University of Pretoria and a member of the Skills Development Forum, reported that Phase One of the General Security Practice learnership was a resounding success. In his capacity as this programme coordinator, Mr Disipi reported that although not all staff enrolled on the learnership had completed the course, 81% of this first cohort stayed the course and went on to qualify, and this was pleasing.

Having completed this training, the workers were now empowered to operate within a range of contexts, namely rural, urban, corporate, mass gatherings, homes and businesses. The security personnel were also equipped to safeguard premises, assets, information and personnel. They can interact with customers and other members of the public; operate security systems and conduct security duties within the ambit of the law.

From the USAf perspective, upskilling these employees has certainly raised the standard of their service at the institutions where they are employed, and this is consistent with USAf's mandate to support its member institutions to fulfil their core mandates.

For this initial phase, implemented from April 2019 to September 2020, SASSETA invested R1,4 million.

The table below shows the institutions that enrolled their staff on the General Security Practice learnership.

University Commencement Number Completion
Central University of Technology 16 12
University of the Free State 15 14
University of the Witwatersrand 15 10
University of Pretoria 22 20
University of KwaZulu-Natal 20 16
University of Venda 17 13
Total 105 85

How this programme came about

The call to re-integrate the outsourced workers into universities began in 2015/ 2016 when students took to the streets, protesting against unaffordable university fees and a range of other concerns. Students also supported a demand by non-academic yet essential workers at their institutions, such as security guards, maintenance and cleaning staff, to be brought back into universities' mainstream payrolls. Historically, many institutions had outsourced these services.

The students, alongside the workers, lamented that outsourcing was an exploitative and dehumanising practice that continued to perpetuate poverty amongst those affected. They argued that the outsourced workers were contending with unfair wages, dismissals, victimisation and racism and were also excluded from the benefits that mainstream employees enjoyed, such as reduced fees for their children studying at the same institutions. The activists therefore saw the insourcing of these workers as social justice that stood to restore the workers' dignity, security of tenure and peace of mind.

Many institutions heeded the call and decided to insource some of these services and insofar as practicable, discontinued the contracts they had had with external service providers. With that came a need to integrate and upskill these workers – a move that demanded additional resources that many institutions could ill afford.

As a result, Universities South Africa (USAf) intervened through its two communities of practice, the Human Resources Directors' Forum and the Skills Development Forum. The USAF engaged various Sector Education and Training Authority (SETAs) based on the outcomes of the insourced staff skills audit and needs analysis report which was compiled by Mr Disipi , asking them to fund the training needs of the insourced staff.

These assessments identified that most of the newly insourced workers lacked requisite skills. The audits showed that the majority of the insourced workers viewed their absorption into universities as an opportunity for personal advancement through education and learning. The audits also found that the majority, aged 30, on average, were young adults aspiring to improve their lives.

Universities therefore set out to provide support to departments that absorbed these workers with the requisite training. They formulated customised training programmes that promoted the assimilation of insourced staff into their institutions' culture. The in-service training also helped to maintain uninterrupted service delivery.

SASSETA is funding the General Security Practice learnership

With Phase One of the General Security Practice learnership successfully completed, SASSETA continues to fund Phase 2 of the programme that began in March 2021 and is expected to finish in December 2021. For the current cohort, SASSETA has invested R1, 650 million.

Below is a list of universities that have enrolled their security guards in the second learnership.

University Commencement Number
Sefako Makgatho University of Health Sciences 20
University of South Africa 30
University of Pretoria 20
University of Johannesburg 24
University of the Witwatersrandl 25
Walter Sisulu University 4
Rhodes University 6
Total 129

Disipi indicated that Phase 3 of this programme, already on the cards for 2022, will be targeted specifically at the Western Cape-based institutions and other Institutions that have not benefited from this project.

About Human Resources Directors' Forum (HRDF)

In keeping with USAf's guiding principles for communities of practice, the HRDF enables Human Resources (HR) directors working in higher education to collaborate, network and share knowledge on issues of common concern.

The objectives of the Forum are to promote HR practice in South African higher education through:

  • Sharing of information and knowledge resources;
  • Promoting best practices;
  • Collaboration on national and international initiatives; and
  • Supporting HR professionals within South African higher education through building collegial relationships and developing capacity.

Among numerous other projects, the HRDF is currently looking at a more substantive rollout of the Human Resource Development (HRD) Programme that was introduced in 2017 and, due to its proven value and success, was again implemented in 2018 and 2019. This programme was designed to deliver a customised HR development solution that empowers HR professionals to respond appropriately to the unique challenges that confront universities. The HRD is accredited by the South African Board for Personnel Practice (SABPP) and is offered to Human Resource Business Partners and Human Resource Managers at all public universities. Its objective is to develop HR Professionals into HR University Partners who will be able to support and sustain their institutions' strategic intent.

The writer, Nqobile Tembe, is a Communication Consultant contracted to Universities South Africa.

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