South Africa needs to accelarate training of artisans if it is to realize its objectives towards an industrialised economy. The reality is, there currently is a disconnect between industry demands for artisan skills and availability of candidates, and we cannot talk industrialisation without first building a strong skills base that will transform the economy. If the country is to deal effectively with the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality it needs to step up the gear in training more artisans as part of the national strategy to deal with the current shortage of critical skills.

This has been the rallying call of the government since 2011 when President Jacob Zuma announced a R1 trillion budgetary allocation for Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs). The resources are earmarked for the building of roads, schools, universities, harbours, power stations and other social and economic infrastructure. He was later to add in his State of the Nation Address of 2013 that the massive investment in infrastructure must produce more than just power stations, rail lines, dams and roads, but must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation.

Consequently, the Department of Higher Education and Training has responded by establishing a platform for the annual review of artisan development in the country. The platform is to strengthen dialogue and efforts, throughout the provinces, to continually improve the National Programme for Artisan Development known as: “7-Steps to Becoming a Qualified Artisan.” The initiative is led by Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana, and encourages choices of artisanry as a career option for young people and out of school adults.

A conversation on South Africa’s post school system has also begun. In the same vein, BRICS governments recognise the need for enhanced cooperation and a shared vision on skills development for their respective countries. They are constantly working towards promoting a permanent exchange of knowledge on foresight and forecast methods intended to enable BRICS countries to anticipate future trends in technologies, align policy frameworks, and to prepare their workforce accordingly.

The member states also agreed, as a matter of priority, on establishment of a Skills Development Fund with a view to promoting investment in BRICS countries to improve the quality and access to technical, vocational education and training (TVET). This also includes training for high-tech industries. This funding mechanism, housed under the New Development Bank, would provide a technical cooperation platform for sharing of knowledge and lessons learned on improving systems and responses to evolving demands on TVET in BRICS and emerging/developing economies.

The Skills Development Working Group (SDWG), one of six sectoral groups, was tasked to spearhead and drive the process. SDWG is led by Brazil’s National Service for Industrial Training and its key strategic areas and activities are as follows:

• Create potential for future economic, political, scientific and cultural collaboration between people of the BRICS countries.
• Achieve BRICS leadership in innovation and hi-tech sectors by leveraging potential of knowledge creation segments in member states.