South Africa would have to step up artisan training to meet the demand that government’s big infrastructure investment push would create, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said on Wednesday.
“These projects will need qualified artisans, and unless we accelerate artisan training, we will sit with huge demand, which will result in skewed economic growth,” he said at the National Artisan Development Conference, held in Midrand.
According to the New Growth Path, South Africa would have to train 50 000 new artisans by 2015 and at least 30 000 additional engineers by 2014.
Nzimande stated that the training of artisans was of highest priority, as highlighted in the government’s intentions to strengthen the manufacturing sector, in line with the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan II.
“There is nothing more patriotic than developing artisans, they are the heart of South Africa’s economic development, and will be the main driver behind the manufacturing sector in years to come.”
He noted that the department has released a list of occupations that fall under the artisan category, aimed at clarifying and standardising training, while reducing the number of standards in industry.
Last year, 24 000 artisans were registered in further education and training (FET) colleges in the country; however, only an estimated 13 000 artisans were qualified.
Nzimande said there were more than 100 standards for artisan training that often resulted in fly-by-nights. The different standards also led to artisans failing.
“We require our partners, which includes labour, employment, sector education and training authorities (Setas) and colleges to commit to the seven steps to becoming a qualified artisan. We also need to raise the status of vocational training.
“The notion that it is only for people who did not make it into university is detrimental to the industry. I am sure, in Johannesburg, there are plumbers who make more money than doctors,” he said.
“We have to be ambassadors for vocational training and make it fashionable. These are vital and necessary skills in South Africa,” he added.
Nzimande also asked FET colleges to form an association, which would see the country’s educational institutes come together to share best practice. “We would also like to see the Setas and employers as members of such an association, and we would reward companies, Setas and colleges that are doing well in industry development,” he said.
“Our motto at the department is ‘every workplace, a training space’. It is time we employ this motto in industry,” Nzimande concluded.