Few young people take up training in the 13 key critical areas of the artisan economy, as most prefer going to university after high school.
While South Africa’s unemployment rate of 27.1% in the fourth quarter of 2018 reflected a figure of 6.14 million jobless people – with youth unemployment above 50% – lack of skilled artisans has been singled out by experts as a major barrier to job creation and economic growth.
According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the third quarter, jobs in the construction industry increased by over 10% from 1.36 million to 1.5 million – on an annual quarter-on-quarter basis.
With a gross domestic product (GDP) for this year standing at $349.3 billion (about R5 trillion), South Africa – the second largest African economy after Nigeria, with a $376.3 billion GDP – faces a challenge of lack of growth in the artisan economy.
Deepening the dilemma of government and business in finding required qualified artisans is the fact that few young people take up training in the 13 key critical areas of the artisan economy, compared to many who prefer going to university after high school.
Artisan skills currently needed to grow the economy include bricklaying, plumbing, boilermaking, carpentry, welding, mechanical engineering and fitting and turning.
According to the National Development Plan (NDP), SA has to produce 30,000 qualified artisans a year to meet labour demand if poverty and inequality are to be drastically reduced by 2030.
One of the country’s biggest priorities is developing qualified artisans to deliver on strategic infrastructure projects (SIPs), which include the construction of roads, schools, universities, harbours and power stations.
It is against this background that the department of higher education and training (DHET) has invested billions into further development of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges to produce the much-needed artisans.
Among those behind the campaign to grow more artisans is Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Buti Manamela, who believes that artisan training is important in the growth of the economy “because it assists in the battle against youth unemployment”.
Manamela is confident about the government reaching the NDP target of training 30,000 artisans annually by 2030. “Over the past three years, we have produced 16 114, 21 188 and 21 150 artisans respectively. By 2030, we will be able to meet the target.
“We have asked Indlela [a directorate of the DHET] to give us a strategy that will help us expand the numbers and we will also intensify the Decade of the Artisan campaign,” said Manamela.