Cape Town - South Africa’s artisans are getting old and there are not enough trained youngsters to replace them.
MEC for Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said on Wednesday the average age of artisans in South Africa was 55 years while the number of young people being trained to produce the next generation of artisans was only a fraction of what the country needed.
Winde, who was the guest speaker at the launch of an online skills and job platform for the oil and gas sector, said the Western Cape government’s artisan development programme had produced 176 new artisans.
“We celebrate this, but it is a very, very small number. It is a start, but we’ve got to ramp things up. The National Development Plan says we need 30 000 trained artisans a year in South Africa.
“There are probably only 10 000 a year. This shows the massive gap we’ve got. If we don’t change the maths and science coming in, we won’t change the skills gap.”
Winde welcomed the launch of the online Marine Oil and Gas Academy, backed by the SA Oil and Gas Alliance (Saoga).
He said it would play a critical role in linking potential employees and employers, and would ensure there was a match between skills offered and the needs of the industry. The portal would become a “virtual meeting place” for Africa’s oil and gas sector for professionals, companies, students and academic institutions.
The Industrial Development Zone on the West Coast was key to the development of the oil and gas sector. However, many of the companies that came to Saldanha brought staff from other countries.
“It is really sad watching our own people without work and watching all the skills coming in from other parts of the world. We see helicopters coming in with them,” Winde said.
There was a need to attract companies to the province so that jobs could be created to absorb those who were being trained as artisans. Recently, one company had completed a R1-billion job in the harbour, which had created 1 100 jobs during the seventh-month duration of the work.
But when the company had completed the job, those who had gained skills on the project were left without work. The province needed to attract more companies so there were no “winter periods” between big projects.
Adrian Strydom, skills development manager of Saoga, said some of the problems were that there were “pockets” of local skills the oil and gas industry needed, but not enough skills across the spectrum, and the cyclic nature of the industry.
“For six months, we have rigs here and then the rigs go. Who looks after retaining those skills in the down cycle?”
A major problem was the school system, which was not producing school-leavers with adequate maths and science abilities.
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