Artisans needed for South Africa's infrastructure development plans

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South Africa has experienced a shortage of about 46 000 artisans in the past three years. That's according to figures given by the Higher Education Department in Johannesburg at a Gala Dinner held in July 2012 South Africa has experienced a shortage of about 46 000 artisans in the past three years. That's according to figures given by the Higher Education Department in Johannesburg at a Gala Dinner held in July 2012

Government plans to spend trillions of Rands on infrastructure development over the next two decades - but will SA have enough artisans to cope with this kind of workload?

Artisan training institutes and South African corporates in general need to seize the opportunity presented by the government’s large capital infrastructure investments worth more than R1-trillion in the next decade by ensuring that enough artisans are trained to meet this “groundswell of practical work” that will be required, said Sean Jones, a director of black-owned artisan training academy, Artisan Training Institute (ATI).

Jones said some market estimates believe this infrastructure investment from government could top R3.2 billion over the next 20 years, meaning that it is not only the private sector which needs to gear itself up for this increased demand – “government needs to work with the private sector to ensure that the country has enough qualified artisans”.

“Failing this,” said Jones, “it will be exceedingly difficult for these plans to be properly and timeously executed.”

“As things stand right now, we are hearing these big numbers being bandied about, but we, in the industry, are unsure whether or not we will be able to cope, on the ground, to ensure that these projects are properly and timeously completed. There are just not enough artisans in South Africa to cope with this kind of workload.”

South Africa’s Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande, has already stated that moulding qualified artisans is vital in South Africa’s fight against poverty and unemployment.  He said the development of qualified artisans to support the economy is a high priority for his department – and for the government.

This is becoming increasingly important as we pause to consider the many infrastructure projects in the country, which will require a significant number of qualified and competent artisans in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance.

Commenting further, Jones said the announcement of the infrastructure spending by government is “certainly good news”. “It will play a large part in growing the economy and providing job opportunities. But talk is cheap. This scale of infrastructural development will require the right level of skills to be implemented – and completed – and South Africa is falling far short at this juncture.

“One of the problems we are facing is that being an artisan in South Africa still carries something of a stigma. But some plumbers – certainly in large metropolitan areas – can earn more than doctors. Overseas, being an artisan is not frowned upon. People understand that it does not necessarily mean that you will be a  lower earner. We need to encourage a mind shift change in this country. Training people – especially under-privileged people – to become artisans, will play a part in alleviating poverty. Artisans can earn good salaries and this will place those who gain formal employment in a position to elevate their lives, increase their disposable incomes– and provide for their families.”

Jones said that more than 95% of apprentices who are trained by customers at ATI are offered full-time positions as artisans when they qualify.

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South Africa Infrastructure Development

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