More artisan jobs please, say SA career experts


More artisan jobs please, say SA career experts

While you may not think about your career from an exclusivity angle when you are choosing it, or studying towards it, there’s no doubt that being highly sought after – i.e. choosing something that has a significant level of demand – can only stand in your favour in the future. Here’s a glance at local artisan careers. By Vanessa Rogers on behalf of Executive Placements.

We live in a country that is faced with an acute shortage of young artisans. According to career and salary reward management company, Remchannel, this equates to an inferior pipeline of individuals aged 25 and under, and between 25 and 30, to work their way up to replace the 40.7 percent of experienced industry members aged 36 to 55.

The sentiment about artisan shortage in South Africa was recently shared by Higher Education, Science and Innovation minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, when he advised delegates at a mid-year fuel retailers event that, “South Africa needs at least 60 percent of school leavers to pursue artisanal-type training, to meet the country’s demand for scarce skills.”

With a nod to his department’s goal to produce 30 000 artisans in South African each year up to 2030, his stance is that more needs to be done to encourage school leavers as to the rewards inherent in the technical trades.

“With the rise of digital transformation and artificial intelligence causing a disruption in all industries, many jobs may no longer exist in the near future. However, there will always be jobs for artisans, due to the technical skill sets required to fix machines if they break down ­– as just one example,” he enthused.

Further, he advised, an artisanal career can propel intelligent young people into other rewarding endeavours – such as running a business, or a career in management.

What is an artisan career?

Artisan careers, i.e. those seeking welding jobs, movers, carpenters, plumbers, renovators, rubble remoters, landscapers, handymen, panel beaters, and builders, involve training that is typically completed over two and a half years.

However, in contrast to many longer courses of study, apprentices in these trades can generally secure an apprenticeship and start earning an income, or even make moves towards opening their own businesses, after just one year of study.

Just one, of many, good news stories on the local artisan landscape is that of Nelisiwe Duba, who was still in secondary school when the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) launched the Decade of the Artisan campaign.

Now aged 25, Duba took the chance back in 2014 to pursue a career in the trades and, today – more than eight years since the campaign’s launch – has translated the joy she finds in fixing things to become a qualified fitter and turner, as of her Ekurhuleni Artisans graduation in November last year.

One of 350 graduating artisans, Duba enthuses that, “Fitting and turning is a great fit for someone with a creative side, like me” and that “taking Mathematics and Physical Science [at high school] helped me meet the requirements of college”.

One of the benefits of this kind of skill, is that it can springboard young people into opening their own small businesses – and this level of independence is of great need in a country such as ours, where job opportunities are scarce, and unemployment has reached an alarming rate of 32,9 percent as of the first quarter of 2023, according to Statistics South Africa.

Artisan pipeline essential

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) has also expressed concern about the insufficient number of graduating artisans, revealing that, “From energy and water, to transport and logistics, all key sectors of the economy are dependent on a ready supply of artisans”.

The organisation’s human capital and skill development executive, Zizile Lushaba, believes that the inclusion of the trades mentioned above in the government’s critical skills list, shines a light on the shortage we have in South Africa – and allows foreign nationals with these skill sets to take up many opportunities here.

“We face two problems when it comes to this shortage,” she told Engineering News. “Firstly, older experienced artisans who are over the age of 55 are retiring, while those in their 30s and 40s are taking advantage of the global portability and demand for their skills – and are emigrating. Secondly, younger, newly qualified artisans lack the experience to substitute the skilled people who are leaving the country.”

Lushaba has therefore called for a a strong ongoing partnership between three crucial role-players – industry and workplaces; sector education and training authorities; and skills development providers, such as her organisation’s Seifsa Training Centre. While government should play an overarching role, her stance is that all three of these important stakeholders should collaborate to:

• implement a system that ensures theoretical exposure for learners in artisanal programmes;
• provide practical and on-the-job training wherever possible;
• emphasise wherever possible that the theoretical and practical aspects of these careers go staunchly hand in hand.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report 2023, 83 million jobs will disappear over the next five years as we transition to green energy, localised supply chains, and innovative new technological jobs of the future; while 69 million new jobs will be created. With such a high proportion of South African matriculants being lost in the education system – only 12 out of 100 students access our prestigious university system, and six complete their courses; only four with a degree – the push towards workforce-ready young people cannot be overstated.

Nzimande believes the Apprenticeship Learner Grant, which was increased in 2021 from R165 000 to R206 290 in 2021, will surely assist in this regard.