Temporary placement of apprentices and technical students in workplaces to prepare them more adequately for employment has received broad support from business, industry, government departments, training bodies and training authorities.
However, there are some fears that employers may resist such placements, owing to commercial pressures, the red tape involved in accessing training funds, lack of incentives relating to broad-based black economic-empowerment credits and safety concerns.
Despite this these potential pitfalls, a significant number of small to large com- panies have implemented learnership and apprenticeship programmes. They also provide opportunities for technicians and artisans to gain practical training, which is required to complete their qualifications.
“Artisan training and other forms of workplace-based training are a central part of the department’s Post-School Education, and Training strategy in expanding education and training opportunities, especially for youth,” says Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.
“The need to develop qualified artisans to support the economy remains a high priority, especially in light of government’s intention to strengthen manufacturing,” he says.
The National Programme for Artisan Development defines a common national, cross-sector understanding of the processes involved in becoming an artisan. The conflated and confusing sector-based skills development system has created huge blockages to a simple and easy-to-under- stand artisan development system, Nzimande says.
A G20 major economies report showed that South Korea had successfully sustained economic growth of 7% over 14 years by synchronising its economic growth with the growth of its education and skills, says State-owned logistics company Transnet head of training Dumisani Kala.
“The UK has said that higher education and advanced skills are necessary for its economic growth and is doubling the number of apprentices in its programmes. India has identified a skills gap in its economy that puts its continued growth at risk. It has implemented a training strategy by using public–private partnership (PPP) models, which focus on artisan, technician and apprentice training.”
Commonalities between effective skills programmes include a key focus on apprenticeships and workplace opportunities, the quality of education, as well as investment in technical education and the use of PPP models, Kala says.
“We have to take a grass-roots approach and build self-sustaining enterprises in the communities where we work and in all of South Africa. We have the talent and a sound business and investment environment, but what is vital is a private partner,” says diversified mining major BHP Billiton chairperson Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi.
“In South Africa, entrepreneurship is often mentioned as a solution to create enough work for everyone. However, we cannot expect those without the necessary experience to immediately become successful business owners and contri- butors to our economy,” he emphasises.
This makes it necessary for industry and government to establish programmes to develop crucial skills to ensure the resilience of the South African economy globally, and requires participation of all sectors of society, he avers.
“Why should only State-owned enter-prises do in-house training?” asks education analyst Professor Graeme Bloch.
“Stop relying on government for everything. We have good higher education and training systems and a good Green Paper. Interventions are not quick and easy. They are tough, hands-on and long-term. Check on the schools that taught you. Ensure that they are still functioning effectively. That is a good place to start,” he advocates.
A change of approach to education is needed, says quality management company Quality Strategies International MD David Crawford.
“In Japan, business is involved in education and focuses on continual improvement, while the education process is consistent. We have the resources and must stop talking and do, do, do.
“We must focus on the fundamentals. We must use what we have. Get the resources, transport them, develop pro-cesses to increase their value and then innovate further,” he states.
Crawford cites research body the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as an example. It used to train apprentices in engineering and was on par with the best in the world, similar to the Rolls Royce Aircraft Engine Division, in the UK, where he had completed his training in mechanical engineering.
“Is it only government’s responsibility to train 44 000 artisans?” he asks.
“South Africa is not fully using oppor- tunities in green technologies and carbon credit standards, such as the Clean Development Mechanism of the United Nations and the Verified Carbon Standard, which can be used to develop cleaner processes and eventually a green economy,” says Crawford.
This move towards manufacturing, especially clean production, energy efficiency and waste management, as well as the technical skills needed to sustain this change, will mean changes to the current economic market and the creation of new skills and positions, says research and development organisation Innovation Hub CEO McLean Sibanda.
“A green economy has the potential to create about five-million new jobs in the long term. They will not displace existing jobs, but will create entirely new vocations necessitated by the increased focus on energy efficiency, waste management and sustainability,” he says.
“The transition from a carbon-intensive economy to a low-carbon economy will have serious implications for organisations as the market changes. However, a move towards a green economy will also enable the efficient use of resources and sustainable production,” says Department of Environmental Affairs sector education and training authority (Seta) director Thomas Mathiba.
“The proactive role industries must play is very important in influencing the development of skills and in preparing the Setas for the development of new and existing skills,” he says.
However, the disruptions caused by new technologies and a move towards environment-friendly manufacturing and a low-carbon economy are a blessing in disguise, says entrepreneur development company Winwin Group founder and executive chairperson Steve Carver.
The new demand for green commerce will enable many young entrepreneurs to enter many sectors. Government does not solve skills problems. Rather, the work ethic in industry is required to develop successful entrepreneurs. Passionate people habitually acquire the skills they need, he says.
“What we learn from teachers are values, rather than knowledge. Also, education is historical. It does not teach new skills that are needed. This is why exposure to good, modern business practices is essential to develop communities of enterprising people who will be in a position to identify and acquire the necessary skills,” Carver avers.
“There is no such thing as a successful business in a failed community. Even though some courses may not be accredited by the relevant Seta, or government may be responding slowly, the policy environment is in place to take action.
“Just do it. Begin training learners and apprentices. We cannot wait any longer because we are not globally competitive. Even if the Setas are not responsive, use industry body and industry standards as baselines for training and quality management,” Carver advocates.
For example, cellular telephones were introduced into the market as a new technology about 20 years ago. It has since become a multibillion-dollar global industry, employing thousands of people and leading to significant innovation and development, says National Research Foundation South African Research Chairs Initiative programme director Dr Linda Mtwisha.
“We can move from a new technology to a highly developed industry within 10 to 15 years if we increase research and have an economy driven by knowledge,” she says.
“Different skills will be needed in the future and we need to encourage lifelong learning and on-the-job training, which require employers and government to develop programmes,” adds Kala.
Career guidance is crucial to help students and artisans deal with the fast-paced changes of the job market, says Institute of People Management CEO Elijah Litheko.
“We should also consider how we can help qualified artisans, who might now be stuck in a job with no apparent prospects for advancement, to access options for further progression. Some of the best engineers in our country do not come out of the university system but were artisans who studied further, gained experience and sat for exams to become government- certificated engineers,” says Nzimande.
“We need to get all the positive elements of that system revitalised and improved upon as soon as possible,” he says.
“We must develop skills to develop the manufacturing sector, which is good for economic growth and job creation. We must use our resource endowment to develop what we need in order to add value. However, we also need to motivate people to become partners in their own development,” says National Planning Commission member Dr Vuyokazi Mahlati.
For example, Winwin Group is closely involved with disadvantaged schools and promotes self-sufficiency by supporting school gardens, business management principles and involvement in local markets.
“We teach principles of abundance and succeeding with what you have. The invisible curriculum missing in South Africa is the will to make a success of our ventures,” concludes Carver.