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Tasneem Bulbulia | 14 June 2023

Learning a trade can open many doors for young people and deserves to be higher on the “what do I do after I leave [school]” lists of both parents and learners, industry organisation Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) human capital and skills development executive Zizile Lushaba says.

She posits that innovative, self-driven self-starters who are technical and enjoy solving problems and working with their hands make good candidates for artisan training, which can include becoming a welder, fitter and turner, boilermaker or pipe fitter.

At a time when the unemployment rate is close to 40% (39.2% in the first quarter of this year) and the jobless rate among young South Africans as high as 61%, the focus on post-school education and training must be on being employable, Lushaba emphasises.

She outlines that choosing a trade increases young people's chances of being employed as there is huge demand for more artisans in all sectors of the economy, with this not limited to South Africa.

Lushaba points out that, while degree-based careers may pay better, people have to be employed before getting paid.

“South Africa has many unemployed graduates which just goes to show that a degree does not always guarantee a job. Of interest, there are far fewer trained artisans languishing among the unemployed,” she avers.

The emphasis on practical training makes newly qualified tradespeople infinitely more employable than university graduates, Lushaba notes.

“Trades require the following three elements — theory, simulation (practical training) and experiential learning (on-the-job training). Experiential learning allows the learner to be exposed to the workplace sooner than university graduates, which provides the opportunity to learn from professionals who guide and mentor them,” says Lushaba.

She highlights that the trades also offer learners who may battle to achieve the marks needed to study at university an alternative and sometimes far better option than simply slotting into whatever degree they will be accepted into.

“University is theory-intensive while a trade provides an opportunity for individuals, who might not excel as much on theory but would be far better with hands-on, practical exposure and learning. Being employed as an apprentice or qualifying as an artisan also provides earlier earnings prospects, which is a big benefit for many South African families,” Lushaba says.

She points out that there are many colleges around the country where young people can learn a trade.

The Seifsa Training Centre in Benoni, Gauteng, for example, offers a full range of artisan training — from welders to electricians. It has also kept up to date with the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, she outlines.

Moreover, the centre also offers skills such as robotics and three-dimensional printing to meet industry demands and these skills are taught using e-learning, virtual reality and electronic assessments. The centre can train 250 people at a time and offers apprenticeships in ten trades.

As part of its commitment to empowering young South Africans, Seifsa took part in Cell C’s recent Youth Day Event. The ‘See Youth’ event focused on ways to empower the country's youth, including helping them to develop the skills of entrepreneurship among other things.

Many artisans find that their practical skills and experience are perfectly suited to running their own small businesses, as Lushaba says, these skills are useful in “day-to-day life for those who are looking to explore the entrepreneurial route”.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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