PPC Cement hosted a brick making workshop in Mamelodi east. Picture: Sakhile Ndlazi
Johannesburg - As unemployment and a skills shortage among South African youth continue to cause concern, some young people shun gaining skills in the industries they do not consider “sexy”, such as brick-making.

On Wednesday cement producer PPC Cement hosted a brick-making workshop in Mamelodi East, Tshwane, which was aimed at developing the skills of local youth and assisting them so they could participate meaningfully in the economy and escape poverty, said PPC's plant manager, Boitumelo Mnisi.

Despite advertising the free workshop on local media - including Mams FM, the community’s radio station - the turn-out by South African youth was unsatisfactory. Instead, foreigner nationals, mainly from Mozambique, seemed to derive a lot of value from the skills workshop.

James Nyandoro, an owner of brick-marking plant who originates from Mozambique, found the workshop to be highly beneficial and said he had improved his skills.

“It helped me with the skills to make better bricks, which will yield better profits,” said Nyandoro.

Asked why only a few of his young South Africans counterparts attended these workshops, Nyandoro - who has been in the country since 2001 - shrugged and said: “They (South Africans) don’t like these kinds of job and say it’s difficult. They are scared of it,” revealed Nyandoro adding that the young South Africans who ventured into these workshops were in the minority.

Joao Fulani, also from Mozambique, said he started working as a brick-maker in 2006 until the local owner of the plant gave it to him to run as his own business. He also found the training to be beneficial and learnt new skills.

He also shared Nyandoro’s sentiments that there were very few South Africans participating in this brick-making economy. He said many people at the workshop were foreigners. “There are few South Africans who make bricks. You might find the owner of the company being a South African, but workers are people from outside.

"I think the reason is that brick-making is a hard job and requires you to be committed. You will hear a young South African say this job ngeyabobhari (is fools’ work) and refuse to participate.

“If you know that you have suffered and you want to provide for your family, you cannot afford to be choosy when it comes to employment,” said Fulani.

Mnisi played down the low uptake by South African youth and said even if the majority of attendees were foreigners, “what matters is that they will assist in producing better-quality bricks, which will be used by locals to build our country”.

Sunday Independent