SA to gain from strict study visa

2012-04-09 00:00

SOUTH Africa could benefit from the decision by Britain’s Home Office to tighten up on immigration rules.

Students may no longer work in the United Kingdom for two years after their studies finish, under the tier one (post-study work) rules.

And to make things more difficult, only those who graduate from a university and have an offer of a skilled job at a salary of at least £20 000 (R250 400) from a reputable employer accredited by the UK Border Agency, will be allowed to stay in Britain.

The changes mean that students from non-European Union countries, like South Africa, will no longer be able to recover some of the cost of their courses or gain valuable work experience for two years.

But that could be good news for SA, which has been experiencing skills shortages in many areas.

In the Global Talent Edge 2020 Study Blueprints for the new normal, published by Deloitte Consulting, concerns were raised that more than half a million jobs in South Africa could not be filled because the appropriate skills did not exist.

This, and the growing gap caused by ill-equipped graduates emerging from tertiary institutions without basic work skills, was having a dire impact on the economy and the prospects of young work seekers.

Ursula Fear, an associate director at Deloitte Human Capital said the 500 000-plus jobs that cannot be filled in SA exist at all levels within the economy and have the potential to have a devastating effect on the country’s youth. “Of the 4,3 million unemployed, 1,3 million are between the ages of 15 and 24.

“New research has also shown that 74% of youth under the age of 24 reported that they cannot find employment,” she added.

Transformation within the workplace has also not had the desired effect of increasing the numbers of suitable black graduates joining the ranks of the employed.

“It was acknowledged in the 10th annual Employment Commission Report that transformation in the workplace has been slow and that companies have been failing to hire skilled black youngsters,” Fear said.

Among those concerned about skills shortages is mining giant, Goldfields. In an interview with Reuters last month, chief executive Nick Holland, said: “We are looking to build a whole lot of mines in the future. And getting the right skills to build those mines is a challenge, not only for us, but for the various engineering companies.”

Holland said part of the problem was demographic. The average age of skilled professionals in the industry, from engineers to geologists and mine planners, is widely estimated at 50 or above.

Meanwhile Landelahni Amrop CEO Sandra Burmeister said the Landelahni Business Leaders survey, released in March, had shown that more skilled workers were needed to bridge the skills gap in the telecommunications industry.

“Opportunities abound throughout Africa, despite the challenges of poor infrastructure, disparate regulatory environments and ferocious competition. Spending on Information Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure is expected to total more than $23 billion (R181,2 billion) a year over the next few years.

“South Africa and the rest of the continent need to skill up to maximise this opportunity,” she added.

The UK study visa changes, which were implemented in the UK on April 6, are part of a radical overhaul of the student visa system that have not been welcomed by everyone in Britain.

Universities UK and the National Union of Students (NUS) have both criticised the government’s new rules.

The NUS said that more than three quarters of international students it had surveyed said the availability of the post-study work option was an important factor in their decision to study in the UK; and that as many as 67% would not recommend the country as a study destination if it was abolished.

And Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said that while the organisation supported the elimination of abuse in the visa system, it was concerned that legitimate students would be barred from studying in the UK.

The Times higher education supplement, published earlier this year, revealed that income received from overseas students in 2010 was reportedly around £5,3 billion (R66,3 billion) and, according to a YouGov poll for Universities UK, just three percent of students settled permanently in the country after five years.

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