There is a dearth of literature on the effects of the implementation of the Skills Development Act (SDA) in South African governmental or Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Although the available body of scholarship draws attention to problems that HEIs encounter with the implementation of the SDA, it does not elaborate on the underlying reasons for these problems. The aim of this critical interpretive study was, therefore, to gain an understanding of the rationale for and meaning of HEIs' employee staff development practices and that of the implementation of the SDA, as well as the match and mismatch between them. The intention of this study was to bring to the surface the underlying social dynamics that Skills Development Facilitators (SDFs) attach to the implementation of the SDA in HEIs. The epistemological intersection between interpretivism and critical theory was, therefore, chosen as the paradigmatic backdrop of this study. The use of Atlas.ti™ to analyse systematically the volume of unstructured data gathered from seven SDFs at HEIs not only facilitated the data analysis but also enhanced the validity of the study. Besides this, Professor Elsie (Liz) Greyling and Professor Nico Sauer intensively scrutinised and commented on my interpretation of the data, also contributing to the validity of this study. An analysis of the research data generated the following interrelated themes: • HEIs experience a total lack of support and guidance from the ETDP SETA. • The descriptions of terminology in the SDA and the explanations offered by government officials are often contradictory and confusing. • Informal development, one of HEIs' core employee learning methods, is difficult to capture. • HEIs' Workplace Skills Plans (WSP) and Annual Training Reports (ATR) submitted to the ETDP SETA are not a fair and accurate reflection of HEIs' staff development practices. • The development of systems to capture HEIs' employee ETD practices on the ETDP SETA's templates for the WSP and ATR is costly. • Time frames for the development of WSPs in HEIs differ from the time frame of the ETDP SETA. These were the main themes indicating why HEIs find it difficult to integrate the SDA in their staff development framework. The effect of these reasons why HEIs find it difficult to integrate the SDA in their staff development practices is that HEIs submit their WSPs and ATRs only to recoup in rebates (grants) the levies they pay. The government furthermore aims to take control of HEIs' employee ETD practices by enforcing the establishment of institutional structures to manage staff development mechanistically. Moreover, HEIs are compelled to prioritise investment in the education, training and development of designated employees, whereas the service delivery of quality education depends on the efficiency of all HEIs' staff members (by implication the development of all employees). In addition, HEIs are compelled to invest in the development of unemployed SA citizens, although the relationship between investment in ETD and economic prosperity is not proven. HEIs are, furthermore, compelled to follow a statutory policy framework that focuses on the manual skills required in the labour market, not on the cognitive, intellectual and largely scholarly skills that HEIs require to maintain and enhance quality education in South Africa. The result of the latter, viewed from a institutional perspective (macro-financial), is that HEIs not only have less funds for ETD practices than they had before the implementation of the SDA, but also that the implementation of the SDA could create negative social relations in HEIs themselves. These effects of the implementation of the SDA also seem to be perpetuated by the lack of interaction and debate between the ETDP SETA and HEIs. It is therefore argued in this study that the absence of officially structured dialogical activities between HEIs' representatives and ETDP SETA officials would perpetuate the dissonance between the reasons for and aims of the SDA and those of skills development in HEIs.