Skills are a priority – Nzimande

2012-07-04 14:30

Skills development is vital in the fight against poverty and unemployment in South Africa, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said.

“Skills development is central in the objectives and goals South Africa wants to achieve as a country to fight poverty, inequality and unemployment,” Nzimande said at the national artisan development conference in Midrand.

“As a country we are short of many skills and we need to turn our education system around to be able to respond better to the many skills that we need, and shift the bias away from focusing on university education.”

Nzimande said it was important for colleges to train artisans.

“We are short of those skills in the country and we need to say to our youngsters that going to a college is not because you are dumb, or that it is second choice to university.

“There is a shortage of those skills and those are skills that are needed. Some people tend to look down upon them, but they are no less important than doctors.”

Learnerships and internships were fundamental for the vital first working experience.

“That is a priority issue for our country which also requires a closer working relationship between the labour movement, the employers and the colleges.”

Nzimande said every workplace was a training space.

“Unless and until employers open their workplaces for our youngsters to acquire the necessary experiences, we are not going to crack the problem of skills shortages in our country.”

He said learnership programmes had been a success in other countries.

“You can appoint the best coach you want, but unless we have got a development programme from a young age, Bafana Bafana will continue to break our hearts,” he quipped.

“Apprenticeships for youngsters are very important. You can’t learn to trap a ball when you are 25, you learn to trap a ball at the age of 10, 11 or 12, like the Spanish.”

Nzimande said the development of qualified artisans to support the economy was a government priority.

He said many strategic infrastructure projects in the country required a significant number of qualified and competent artisans.

These projects and the economic activity they stimulated would require a qualified workforce in various sectors, including manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance.

“Unless we accelerate the training of artisans, their numbers will fall short of the demands of the industry, and therefore adversely affect both production and job creation,” Nzimande told the conference.

“The impact will be felt in inadequate and continued skewed economic growth in our country, and government’s reduced ability to provide basic and other services to our people.”

The purpose of the conference was to set up a formal, national platform under the auspices of the higher education and training department, to annually review the state of artisan development in the country.

The conference ends tomorrow.

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