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Machine Tools Africa 2024 to emphasise skills development

29th May 2023

By: Tracy Hancock

Creamer Media Contributing Editor

     

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While the machine tools industry experiences daily challenges – such as high energy supply costs, power interruptions, increasing raw material costs, as well as inadequate infrastructure – that threaten its sustainability, education is a bigger concern, says Machine Tools Merchants’ Association (MTMA) South Africa chairperson Joanne Canossa.

“The metal processing industry is a critical sector in South Africa. It serves multiple industries in our economy and, according to the Metals and Engineering Indaba, the industry contributes around 28% towards the country's manufacturing gross domestic product,” stated Canossa at the Machine Tools Africa (MTA) 2024 launch on May 26.

However, despite the industry’s importance, it was revealed by Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande in November last year that South Africa produced 20 000 qualified artisans a year on average. This is 10 000 short of the 30 000 qualified artisans a year that the National Development Plan targets by 2030. 

Unfortunately, many skilled individuals have also had “no other choice, but to seek employment outside of South Africa, which is not great for us”, emphasised Canossa.

To promote a career in a technical vocation, MTA 2024 and WorldSkills South Africa, an initiative championed by the Department of Higher Education and Training, will treat visitors and exhibitors to an exhibition of skills when WorldSkills South Africa’s top ranked competitor goes up against their Chinese counterpart in a four-hour blind test. Machine tool merchants will also be encouraged to select industry members to participate in the challenge, which takes place ahead of the WorldSkills Lyon 2024 competition, in France, from September 10 to 15.

South Africa needed to change the mindset of its youth and make them understand that university was not the only option, with the option of undergoing vocational training to acquire skills that were in demand in the labour market, said WorldSkills South Africa official delegate, National Artisan Development acting chief director Jowei Bopabe at the MTA 2024 launch.

Canossa highlighted there were three fundamental issues that South Africa needed to address ­– firstly, a lack of career guidance, resulting in fewer young people entering the field; secondly, skills retention and, thirdly, the need to address the use of old-fashioned technology, especially in training centres.

Formally established in April 2013, WorldSkills South Africa competed in Brazil, in 2015, Abu Dhabi, in 2017, the UK, in 2019, and the WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition hosted worldwide, failing to medal at every event.

“We need industry to partner with us and ensure that we train these people so that they can compete, when they come back with a medal, perhaps the youth will become interested in a technical education,” explained Bopabe.

Organised by Specialised Exhibitions, owned by global events company Montgomery Group, MTA is hosted in collaboration with the MTMA. Cancelled in 2020 owing to Covid-19, the event will take place at the Johannesburg Expo Centre (Nasrec) in Gauteng, from May 21 to 24 next year.

When hosted in 2017, MTA attracted almost 6 000 visitors and secured 105 exhibitors.

“Seventy-seven per cent of those visitors had purchasing authority . . . 88% of visitors came for new products, new technologies and the trends. That is why the show plays such a critical role in ensuring that the industry stays at the forefront of innovation,” said Specialised Exhibitions portfolio director Charlene Hefer.

MTA 2024 has sold more than 50% of its exhibition space to date.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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