The South Africa hydraulics industry is feeling the effects of a brain drain of skilled and qualified personnel, says hydraulic and pneumatic equipment manufacturers and suppliers Germiston Hydraulics CEO Archie Leitch.
Although the fluid power industry is enjoying a positive industry upturn, with the improved political climate boosting investor confidence and increased demand for all hydraulic equipment and repairs, the economic upswing has made transparent the general ongoing shortage of skilled and qualified personnel in the industry, he explains.
Leitch states that, with the recent increase in demand, the skills shortage – from artisan level to the technical and sales positions – is slowing down the rate at which manufactures and suppliers can adequately satisfy the increased demand.
He claims that skilled professionals in the industry are elderly, with few young people being properly trained to take over the reins, and qualified industry professionals are immigrating, creating a knowledge gap in industry.
“The biggest challenge is a lack of skilled labour. We have lost a few well-trained people to Australia, with most of them saying they want to leave because of the high crime rates and what was an unstable government.”
Now that the country’s political climate is stabilising, training and skills development must come to the forefront, Leitch emphasises. He says Germiston Hydraulics has been in operation for 39 years, and has undertaken significant in-house training for employees sending its artisans and technicians on training courses.
He is concerned about the current high demand for qualified hydraulics professionals, stating that the company has often invested heavily in the training of new employees, only to have them poached by other companies.
Further, the latest hydraulic technical advances will compound the skills deficit, as trained industry professionals will need to refresh their skills if they wish to remain competitive, he adds.
Despite the industry skills shortage, Germiston Hydraulics has done well in recent years. The company has invested R5-million in the purchase of new Okuma and HAAS CNC machines, to manufacture hydraulic manifolds, cylinders and hydraulic components. Leitch says the investment has significantly streamlined and improved production and quality.