There are an estimated 300 000 unemployed graduates in South Africa that cannot find jobs, a third of whom are trained in the engineering and science fields, a skills expert revealed on Friday.
South Africa’s National Skills Development Handbook editor Mike Stuart said that this was mainly owing to a gap between the supply of skills and the demand for skills in the labour market of the country.
“Graduates in the fields of engineering and science, mainly from South Africa’s Further Education and Training colleges, are given the knowledge and some practical training by institutions, but then left without any work experience and, ultimately, unemployed.”
Stuart noted that the government had been working hard to bridge this gap over the past 11 years and while the State had almost come full circle, it had new perspectives and a better understanding of how to link education and training to the world of business.
Essential to government’s efforts to bridge the gap between the skills supply and the demand for skills is its occupational learning system drive and the third National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS3).
South Africa has 21 different economic sectors and each sector compiled a strategic skills plan that contributed to the drafting of the NSDS3. “This five-year strategy provides South Africa with a very clear vision to bridge certain gaps going forward,” said Stuart.
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande planned to implement the strategy in April, but Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) are still waiting for the green light which will come when their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with the Department are signed off.
Stuart expected that the implementation of the NSDS3 would follow as soon as the Higher Education and Training Department signed the SLAs and that this would herald the beginning of the effective implementation of South Africa's occupational-focused learning strategy.
“I can understand that people become frustrated with all the changes that have been implemented in the country’s education and training sector to date. The frustration is evident with the Minister’s latest spat with the Services Seta.
“But, South Africa must continue trying to get it right, not just for the country’s own economy, but to also provide solutions for the rest of the African continent,” said Stuart.
He noted that skills development and education were pivotal to ensure a country’s competitiveness in today’s rapidly changing business environment.