The economic development of South Africa is closely tied to the development of a skilled workforce said Gwebinkundla Qonde, the director general for the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in his address at the National Artisan Development Strategy conference, held in Benoni at the end of last year. “A good artisan training system needs to produce quality artisans who will contribute to the country’s economy.”
Qonde told delegates that DHET “should be able to produce 30 000 qualified artisans each year” – as required by the National Development Plan (NDP).
Qonde highlighted that the Artisan Development Strategy Framework “seeks to establish a national baseline for an integrated national artisan development system, which defines critical components of artisan development ranging from the artisan training system itself, funding regimes, quality assurance, and impact measurement issues”. He stressed that “skills development needs to occur at every given opportunity ... at a college, a university or at a workplace”.
“Expansion of skills development in the workplace is the fastest and most immediate mechanism that we need to utilise as that is where much of the existing skills base resides in the country and it must be leveraged. This puts a direct responsibility on public and state-owned companies and the private sector employers to open up workplaces for learners to gain experiential skills,” said Qonde.
“As we grow the number of institutions such as TVET colleges as fast as resources allow, these must be correspondingly linked to workplaces as training spaces in order to expand the learning process of future artisans.” Qonde stressed that the success of the proposed Artisan Development Strategy is centred “on the need to get more employers involved”.
Qonde said that it was positive that studies have proved that learners who participate in the apprenticeship system “are easily absorbed by industry or manage to create their own employment”. He added that a Human Sciences Research Council study indicated that the majority of apprenticeship and learnership participants who completed their qualifications “experienced a smooth transition into stable employment”.
Qonde highlighted that the youth aged between 15 and 34 “remains vulnerable in the labour market
with an unemployment rate of 38.2%, which is 11.1% points about the national average”.
This vulnerability of school leavers is exacerbated by the number of ‘bogus colleges’. In January, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, cautioned students to only register with accredited colleges, which are recognised by SETAs under the auspices of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, and to check the accredited programmes a college is permitted to offer.
According to the DHET’s website, the ‘Decade of the Artisan’ programme will “completely remove existing bottlenecks and develop a single quality assurance system and national single trade testing system”.