Shortage of technical skills or not?

It seems to have become fashionable to talk about the shortage of technical skills both locally and abroad.

May 7, 2012

It seems to have become fashionable to talk about the shortage of technical skills both locally and abroad. But the big unanswered question remains whether there is a real shortage of technical skills in South Africa, or simply a lack of basic quality/ability in the country’s pool of qualified people, said Sean Jones, a director of Ikhaya Fundisa Techniskills Academy (Pty) Ltd (IFTA)the black-owned artisan training company.

Jones said government’s reaction has been to throw more money at the problem and is trying to capacitate FET Colleges to help train artisans.

“Much of these funds will be wasted as most of the staff in these FET’s hold teaching diplomas. They have no idea how to provide the practical component of NCV, the new Australian derived qualification. There are a handful of FET’s that can perform at industry quality standards. The rest sit with expensive equipment still wrapped in bubble wrap, unsure of what to do next,” said Jones.
In addition, NSF money is now being channeled into initiatives to train artisans. “We are walking a risky tightrope by chasing numbers for politicians who want to look like they are dealing with the problem.
However, Jones added, there are nonetheless excellent initiatives underway, which, under the leadership and direction of Dr Florus Prinsloo and Minister Blade Nzimande, are:
• Revising government policy with the view to aligning
technical training through NAD (National Artisan
Development);
*Revising all the listed trades and standardizing funding across all SETA’s for companies wishing to train artisan/learners, and;
* Standardizing outcomes for all trades instead of each SETA manipulating trades to fit their industry only.
“These initiatives, coupled with the drive to improve the quality of training and trade testing through NAMB (National Artisan Moderation Body), will have a profoundly positive impact on quality going forward. These efforts in addressing the technical skills dilemma are to be applauded,” said Jones.

But he said that the biggest challenge now facing South Africa’s education system is to improve the standards at government schools where there is a dire shortage of effective headmasters, maths, and science teachers. Many big companies are moving to “adopt a school” in an effort to make a meaningful contribution, as well as facilitate a channel from which to obtain skills in future.