Cape Town -111121. Minister Alan Winde delivering a welcome address at the 1st CEO's Forum Meeting of the Economic Development Partnership at the CTICC today. Reporter: Clayton Barnes. Pic: Jason Boud

Cape Town -

The Western Cape has the potential to become the oil and gas industry hub for Africa, but MEC for Economic Development Alan Winde has admitted that the government is not doing enough to improve job skills in order to compete in the international market.

While on a visit to Belmet Marine, a steel manufacturing company in Bellville, on Tuesday, Winde said the oil and gas industry created 5 800 jobs and attracted investment worth over R1.2 billion in the last year.

He said the industry had the potential to increase investment to R3bn and create 7 000 jobs annually.

But managing director and owner of Belmet Marine, Pieter Kroon, painted a harsh picture of the sector’s failure to meet the high quality of international standards.

Kroon said: “Our biggest problem is skills; students are not getting quality training and no one is looking into it. Instead, FET colleges and other training facilities are just focusing on the quantity of graduates.”

Kroon’s company manufactures steel for the oil and gas, diamond mining and mineral processing industries.

He said there was a huge need for boilermakers and welders, and that the current quality of graduates was far lower than required standards.

“The quality of students is lower than what it used to be, and it starts at school level already.

“Maths and science is a big concern. Maths literacy is of no use to this industry.

“In the old curriculum we had mathematics higher and standard grade. We now have a watered-down education system, and that means tertiary training also becomes watered down. In the end, we get someone who qualified but they can’t do the job,” Kroon said.

He fears that SA will lose competitiveness if the quality of students does not improve.

“Our sector is an international sector, 80 percent of the clients are in Europe and the United States.

“We cannot afford to lower our standards or we will lose competitiveness,” he said.

Kroon said most graduates coming into the industry do not have the theoretical background and could, therefore, not do the practical work.

“They do a good job of writing off the board, but they don’t understand what they are doing,” Kroon said.

Winde said: “We want to grow jobs and the economy, so we need to know what is happening on the ground. We want to know about the problems and blockages and we need to fill these gaps as quickly as possible. Skills is a major problem; the supply from colleges is not the quality we need.”

Winde agreed with Kroon, saying if the province did not meet international standards, the market would move to other countries instead.

“This is a huge sector for closing the unemployment gap. At the moment, as government we are not delivering as a country on what we need to be competitive,” Winde said.

He said the Western Cape had all the right features in place to become the oil and gas hub for Africa.

“This is our firm goal. The sector has enormous potential to contribute to the growth of the Western Cape economy and create job opportunities for the citizens of our province. It is estimated that for a stay of eight weeks by an oil rig docked at the Port of Cape Town, R200 million is contributed to the Western Cape’s economy and 2 000 job opportunities are created for locals,” Winde said.

In the next financial year, the Western Cape government will work with the South African Oil and Gas Alliance on initiatives such as, establishing an oil and gas hub at Saldanha Bay, artisan training to meet the skills shortage and improving access for South Africans to neighbouring countries’ oil and gas markets. - Cape Times

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