Govt gears up to meet artisan shortage

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cape Town – The present production rate of qualified artisans in South Africa falls far short of the required targets, says the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande.

However, government was making a concerted effort to meet this challenge, Nzimande said on Tuesday in a keynote address at the opening of Imperial Automobile Training Academy in the Bellville South industrial complex.

According to statistics, South Africa has a shortfall of about 40 000 qualified artisans against the annual production rate of 13 000 qualified artisans.

The National Development Plan -- which aims to ensure that all South Africans attain a decent standard of living through the elimination of poverty and reduction of inequality by 2030 – states that South Africa should produce more than 30 000 qualified artisans a year if the labour demand were to be met.

In squaring up to this challenge, government had identified Further Education and Training (FET) colleges as part of the solution.

A variety of strategies have been introduced. These include declaring 2013 the Year of the Artisan, with the slogan “It’s cool to be an Artisan”;  introducing what can technically be called fee-free education for poor and deserving students at FET colleges; a concerted effort to change the negative perceptions around FET colleges, and a turnaround strategy to improve the quality of management and teaching at these institutions.

Nzimande said that government had made a firm commitment to implement a funding mechanism that would subsidize young people seeking work or placement in various companies.

Funding for loans and bursaries for students wanting to study at universities and colleges has been upped from R2.375 billion in 2008 to well over R6 billion this year. In addition, over the next three years, an amount of R1.7 billion has been set aside for student accommodation, while universities will contribute R600 million to this project.

“This confirms government’s commitment to making fund available to stimulate workplace training and employment opportunities for all our young people,” the minister said.

Government’s response was bearing fruit. Enrolment at these colleges had shot up from 350 000 in 2010 to 650 000 last year. About 42 percent of the 650 000 students enrolled were studying engineering.

Government’s massive investments and improvements had to be seen against one of the most concerning features of the South African landscape, a steadily growing number of young people aged between the ages of 18 and 24 who were not in education, employment or training.

“I must assure you though that a lot is being done to ensure that these young people have a second chance to become productive citizens and take their right place in society,” said Nzimande.

The Imperial Automobile Training Academy, one of three in the country, will focus on meeting the technical needs in passenger vehicles, heavy duty vehicles, auto electrical and auto-tronics through the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Industries Sector Education and Training Authority (MerSETA) apprenticeship training programme.

Sean Fenn, General Manager of Development and Training at the academy, said the pipeline that had produced apprentices in the past was broken. The academy was part of an engagement to repair that pipeline. –