Change is brewing in terms of accelerating artisan development, says Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) skills development executive Janet Lopes.
With the implementation of government’s National Skills Development Strategy and a significant infrastructure roll-out plan under way, artisan training is fast becoming a top priority for most industries, especially with the reported shortage of skills across the board.
Lopes is positive that things will soon start to improve, citing the results of last year’s National Economic and Development Labour Council-negotiated National Skills Accord, which is an agreement signed between representatives of business, organised labour, the community constituency and government.
In July last year, the parties agreed to set a target of 30 000 new apprentices to be indentured by employers across all sectors by the end of the financial year, in March.
Lopes tells Engineering News that, when the announcement was made, none of the parties thought they would meet that target, but when the financial year ended, 24 378 apprentices had been registered with several sector education and training authorities (Setas).
Moreover, the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Seta, which includes the metal and engineering industry as the largest of its five chambers, had the highest number of skills accord registrations, having registered 5 876 new appren- tices, exceeding its initial target of 5 383 new apprentices.
“What these numbers tell you is that, when you set a national target and you communicate it well, people focus their minds and try to do more to meet that target,” says Lopes.
Last month, the Eskom Learning Centre, in Midrand, hosted the National Artisan Development conference, which focused on the ‘Seven Steps to Becoming a Qualified Artisan’, a concept developed by the National Artisan Moderation Body, which falls under the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).
Lopes highlights the keynote address by Higher Education and Traning Minister Dr Blade Nzimande, who focused on the critical role of artisan training to support the economic and social goals of South Africa, as well as the urgent need to accelerate artisan training initiatives.
“The Minister highlighted that there had been a loss of institutional and general public knowledge of the [seven-step] process, as he believed the conflated and confusing sector-based skills development system had created blockages to a simple and easy-to-understand skills development system in the country,” says Lopes.
She believes the conference came at an ideal time, as there are many new initiatives under way which support and encourage artisan development, as well as a proposal to mitigate a lack of funding, which has been identified by the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa, as the key factor in preventing national artisan development.
The conference ended on a hopeful note, says Lopes, recall- ing Nzimande’s key slogan: ‘Every workplace a training space’ – a message she hopes will encourage more companies to train and mentor young apprentices.