Cape Town - The extent to which South Africa has slipped backwards in the training of artisans was made clear by Deputy Economic Development Minister Enoch Godongwana
Briefing members of parliament's water and environmental affairs portfolio committee on the government's new growth path, he said lack of skills was a major obstacle on the road to economic prosperity.
"Lack of skills is a major challenge. Unless we change skills formation, we're not likely to make a huge impact.
"(What is) shocking is that in 1975, there were 33 000 registered apprentices, largely white, with a few coloured and Indian (apprentices), because Africans (blacks) were not allowed to be artisans at the time," he said.
"Now if you take a picture in 2000, there were 10% of (this figure), 3 000 artisans of all races. What this means is we're not training people at all in this economy. Clearly this is a major challenge."
The government intended to "ramp up" these figures, with particular focus on artisan training in state-owned enterprises.
"Why did they have 33 000 in 1975, and 3 000 in 2000? It's because the people who were training these artisans in those years were... Iscor before privatisation, Telkom before privatisation, Transnet before corporatisation, Eskom before corporatisation, you can count a lot.
"But what happened when this restructuring took place? Profit became the determining factor, and the first target in terms of cost-cutting was training.
"So, we're beginning to say some of the state-owned enterprises are playing a critical role in skills formation in this economy and therefore we've got to ramp up," he said.
Among the government's key skills targets is the training of 30 000 engineers and 50 000 artisans by 2014/15.