The manufacturing industry, and particularly the metals and engineering sector, is in much need of transformation, says national employer federation the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa).
This “inherently male-dominated sector” comprises 76.4% men and 23.6% women, while people living with disabilities comprise less than 2% of the working population in the metals and engineering sector – against the backdrop of a national prevalence rate of 7.5%, says Seifsa human capital and skills development executive Michelle Norris.
She tells Engineering News that the metals and engineering sector should, consequently, place a special focus on employing and upskilling women, as well as people living with disabilities.
“Women working in the sector are predominantly found in administrative job functions. Additionally, the inherent nature of our business also makes it difficult to recruit people with different types of disabilities at plant level. This should not deter companies from ensuring that the vulnerable minority is considered for positions that they qualify for. With the right support from companies, they would definitely succeed,” she says.
Ultimately, the federation aims to ensure that there is inclusivity of all marginalised groups to achieve a balanced representation of the general population within the sector. This, Norris states, will create a pipeline of skills that will be more inclusive and representative of the diverse human capital.
“Transformation should be a business imperative, which should feature in the business plans, goals and objectives of all companies.”
She advances that transformation is ultimately linked to the fortunes of the metals and engineering sector, along with its growth trajectory over the immediate, medium and long term. Seifsa’s role is to ensure that working environments are conducive to the transformation agenda.
The federation will continue to lobby, advocate and work with all stakeholders to ensure a labour market and regulatory environment that encourages, invests and prioritises transformation, as this is ultimately in everyone’s best interests.
Seifsa works closely in all relevant forums where business, government and labour are represented. This includes platforms such as Business Unity South Africa, the National Economic Development and Labour Council, the National Skills Development Management System, the National Bargaining Council, the Department of Labour and Employment and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
“Wherever transformation is a key and strategic objective, we will continue to engage and provide the necessary input in pursuing strategies that are conducive to ensuring that the transformation goal remains realistic and attainable,” Norris concludes.