“We would like a situation where we see that all our industries are participating in training initiatives and work-integrated learning, are submitting all their workplace skill plans and annual training reports, and are taking on workers in learnership skills programmes. At the moment we do not have a 100% participation and the industry is not geared up to this initiative.” he comments. He adds that the introduction of technology is another challenge that requires rapid skills supply. “We find that closing the skills gap between the change in technology and the supply of skilled personnel is posing a challenge for us, as the facilitators of these training initiatives, and for the industry, as the recipients of skilled personnel.” Merseta is an education and training authority for the manufacturing, engineering and related services sector, covering the metal and engineering, auto manufacturing, motor retail and components, new tyre and plastics industries. It seeks to promote social and economic development and employment growth, as well as redress inequalities in education, training and facilitate and advance employment equity in the sector.
The Merseta was established in 2000 in accordance with the Skills Development Act (1998) to encourage skills development and ensure that individuals possess the appropriate skills and that they are readily available. This is achieved by identifying the skills in short supply in each sector, distributing training levies to employers, ensuring that training is of the appropriate quality and meets the standards of the National Qualifications Framework.
One of the subsectors that Merseta serves through the plastics chamber is the plastics industry.
“The total turnover of the local plastics industry this year is in excess of R35-billion. It is on the increase owing to the growth in the auto- motive industry, packing-sector growth, skills development and training through Merseta learnerships, apprentice and skills programmes, as well as new product development and export opportunities,” says Buthelezi.
He notes that the plastics industry in South Africa ranges from raw- material suppliers (local manufacturers as well as importers) to converters, distributors and recyclers.
The industry is diverse, supplying products to almost every sector of the economy.
The high-volume commodity poly- mers are mostly produced by Sasol and the converter sector manufactures plastic products by extrusion or moulding.
Plastic products include a wide range of products, such as film and bags, sheet and pipe furniture, auto- motive components, medical pro-ducts, industrial products and many others.
“The plastics industry contributes in excess of 5% towards South Africa’s gross domestic product.
The industry has significant export potential, particularly in the conversion subsector, and the tool renewal and manufacturing sectors. Import replacement local industry as well as growth in the auto- motive industry can also increase the local industry,” explains Buthelezi.
He points out that the industry has seen many changes in product design technologies, computer-aided design, automation of machinery and equipment, and computer-aided manufacturing. A number of companies have moved to robotic material handling.
Buhelezi adds that like any other sector or subsector, the plastics indus- try incorporates a number of scarce and critical skills, ranging from engi- neers, technicians, operators, plastic machine setters, plasticians and plastic manufacturing technicians.
“We are in the process of finishing a career guide for the five Merseta subsectors. The aim of the guide is to help learners who are interested in pursuing a career in the manufacturing, engineering and related services sector,” concludes Buthelezi.