Rise of female artisans

2016-08-23 06:00

There’s a quiet global revolution in the making and it has nothing to do with any kind of ideological radicalism. With economic growth increasingly driven by knowledge and skills, rather than commodities and natural resources, many countries are scrambling to produce enough skilled workers.

One consequence has been the collapse of gender barriers in the workplace, as companies and governments concede that men cannot fulfil all the skills requirements of industry.

The government’s National Development Plan estimates that the country will require 30 000 qualified artisans annually by 2030, more than double the current annual average of 13 000 the education system turns out.

The government itself contributed to the low number of artisans in the mid-2000s when it began replacing the national technical education (Nated) courses, which involved part-time study while working, with the National Curriculum Vocational (NCV) certificate, which entails students studying full-time for three years in a technical field before undergoing a learnership.

Because industries could not cope with employees studying full-time, many responded by establishing their own private training facilities and colleges, but were unable to produce enough artisans. After reviewing its earlier decision to drop the Nated courses, the government is now focused on expanding the training of artisans by the country’s fifty public tertiary vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.

The Department of Higher Education and Training plans to add twelve more colleges to increase student capacity. In addition, the government provides more bursaries to TVET students than to universities, and heavily subsidises college fees.

With industries actively recruiting women for training as artisans, statistics are beginning to reflect women making inroads into formerly male occupations. A few years ago, for example, it was actually illegal for women to be employed underground in mining. Today, 13% of Anglo American Platinum’s workforce are women.

TVET colleges are reporting an increase in female students in fitting and turning, and electrical and motor trades. False Bay TVET College for instance, has experienced a year-on-year average growth of 200% since 2014 in females studying for qualifications in motors trades, electrical and civil engineering, with many of its top achievers in these subjects in 2015 being women.

If they follow the same trends as their male counterparts, these women will not only contribute key skills in industry, but many will go on to establish businesses, create vital jobs and boost economic growth.V This column was contributed by False Bay TVET College. For comments and suggestions on future articles, please send us an email to info@falsebay.org.za.

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