Shortage of scarce skills threatens SA's growth

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Johannesburg - South Africa's skills shortage is having a debilitating effect on the country's economic projection, says Minister for Higher Education, Blade Nzimande.

He said that the shortage of professionals and artisans in particular was largely responsible for the country's failure to achieve the targeted 6 percent growth rate in the period 2010 to 2014.

He said government needed to invest in skills development and training, especially the youth, if it were to meet the set targets.

"This is why my department has earmarked about R3.2 million for scarce skills areas for the financial years 2010/11 and 2011/12. These include engineering at universities, universities of technology and comprehensive universities," said the minister.

However, he said while institutions need to produce more graduates in scarce skills fields, such as actuaries, there was a need for the profession and the labour market to make sure that it retains sufficient experienced professionals to mentor newcomers.

"We need to ensure that we do not just grow the number of actuaries we produce, but we should also make sure that we retain them," he said.

Nzimande commended the South African Actuaries Development Programme, which started in 2003, for the wonderful work they were doing to make Actuarial Science accessible to the previously disadvantaged communities.

"Among the previously disadvantaged institutions, only the Universities of the Western Cape and Zululand offer the qualification, it is in this context that efforts towards opening up the profession to the historically disadvantaged population are commendable."

It was encouraging that the programme had already started producing qualified actuaries since its inception and makes special efforts to provide support to students to ensure they succeed in their studies, Nzimande said.

"We need to expose young people to a variety of career opportunities so that they can make informed decisions about the career paths they choose," Nzimande said.