Ina Opperman - 19 March 2023
The country urgently needs technical skills, particularly in the areas of electrical, mechanical, industrial and civil engineering.
South Africa’s youth need technical skills to help solve South Africa’s unemployment crisis, where 4.6 million young people are looking for work.
Considering that 90% of the country’s employment opportunities require youth with technical and vocational skills, as reported by the Human Resource Development Council, equipping them with these skills is crucial for reducing the country’s unemployment rate, Dr Andrew Dickson, engineering executive at CBI-electric: low voltage, says.
There is also an increasing need for artisans and technicians to support base operations within the engineering disciplines, especially as infrastructure repair and maintenance become more crucial than ever for keeping the country’s lights on, he says.
This sentiment was reinforced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation speech when he said that technical skills are what South Africa requires. He said the skills our country needs, the jobs that can grow our economy and importantly, the avenues for entrepreneurship that are so sorely needed, can best be achieved by increasing learner access to technical and vocational subjects.
Government cannot do everything
“However, government is unfortunately limited in its ability to bridge the skills gap and therefore the private sector needs to step in by investing in institutions or individuals. With state funding reduced for universities and technikons, additional support is vital. This option may not appeal to shareholders, but it is important to see the bigger picture where the value lies in investing in employees of the future who will be key for taking the country forward.”
Dickson says another option is for businesses to work with institutions by providing practical learning opportunities for graduates so that they learn how to apply the skills they acquired.
“For example, we provide training to electrical engineering students at Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges around the country on electrical safety compliance, as well as the practical use of products such as circuit breakers, wiring accessories and earth leakage devices.”
The CBI holding company took this a step further with the establishment of Reunert College, which offers a bridging programme for school leavers from previously disadvantaged communities that enables them to improve their matric results which might otherwise have prevented them from getting a university exemption and/or from becoming employed.
Dickson says many participants who successfully completed the programme secured bursaries to study further.
Investing in individuals
When it comes to investing in individuals, he recommends that more industries consider making apprenticeships mandatory, similar to the accounting and law fields where new graduates are required to do their articles. “It ensures that companies take on apprentices and equip them with the experience required to meet the demands of the working world.”
He says businesses that choose this route, must note that they do not have to shoulder the total cost alone, as government provides support via the Skills Development Levy and the provisions of the Income Tax Act. This requires that, if individuals are trained, they need to be placed in a position in a company afterwards.
“One of the biggest skills gaps plaguing the country, particularly in the technical and electrical environments, is a lack of practical know-how among new employees. In the past, this would be passed down by veteran employees, but as this practice is no longer in place due to factors like the brain drain and retirement of seasoned workers, inherent institutional knowledge is lost. Mentorship must be provided to develop new hires into competent employees who can acquire these intricacies and ultimately pass them on to the next generation.”
South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in Africa and the third highest in the world, according to a global list of 82 countries monitored by Bloomberg. Dickson says our plight is far too big for government to tackle alone. In South Africa, 3.1 million companies are registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Dickson says just imagine what could be achieved if they all invested in institutions and individuals, especially those operating in the technical space.”
https://www.citizen.co.za/business/personal-finance/technical-skills-required-to-tackle-youth-unemployment/ ‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.