SA's artisan shortage laid bare

SA's artisan shortage laid bare

2011-02-16 13:20

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 on Wednesday.

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.

  • Solo - 2011-02-16 13:32

    Every year, for the last ten years the same article appears and what gets done about it?

  • Paul - 2011-02-16 13:49

    Thanks to the ANC and its Sitas [Setas?].

  • louiza - 2011-02-16 13:50

    The powers that be could not and still DO NOT see the big picture!!!!

  • Mikemcc - 2011-02-16 13:50

    The mere fact that the latest figures quoted are from 2000 may indicate part of the problem.

  • ratsathome - 2011-02-16 13:51

    Not worth replying to this article.

  • Frik - 2011-02-16 13:51

    It took them a Looooong time to wake up. Just hope they train then up like they use to do it 1975.

  • Chris - 2011-02-16 13:57

    It is because no one whants to be a artisan, they all whant to sit in a office and do as little as possable

      Gungets Tuft - 2011-05-03 22:27

      Chris - you are wrong. Open a 1/2 decent training school for artisans where they can get the same embedded training as artisans did in 1975 and you will be way oversubscribed. It is lack of opportunity, not laziness. A hell of a lot of people slave all day as casual labourers and you jump at the opportunity. The cause lies elsewhere, mainly in the way that the new training facilities try and cram artisans out in 6 months, giving ALL artisans a bad name and making them unemployable.

  • Birdman - 2011-02-16 13:57

    The scary thing about this is that the average age of artisans in South Africa is 57 years old. These are the people with the skills that need to be passed on! Apprentices used to appy for a minimum of 3 years and have to pass trade tests etc. Today's "apprentices" are "okay to go" in 3 to 6 months! They might know what a left hand screwdriver is, but they will have zero knowledge in terms of "tricks of the trade". These are acquired skills rarely taught in manuals. Pity that the appy system is basically defunct. These skills are seriously needed. Just think of a world of no plumbers, welders, fitter or electricians. These are some of the basic vocations that no-one wants to do anymore. If I were young again - I know what I'd be doing right now! Top artisans can write their own ticket!

  • Ross - 2011-02-16 13:59

    The same applies for the mining industry and that also includes the training of mining officials.(learner official Scheme). When the Human Recources profession in the mining industry became more important than actual hard rock mining this type of important training was slowly fased out. I suspect that the actual standard of mining has also deteriorated, hence losses of many grams/ounces of metals.

  • At last - 2011-02-16 14:03

    I could never understand how this gov could allow our artisans to leave. Australia and NZ took thousands, and ESKOM and the other parastatals didn't want the white artisans. Previous gov, like Australia and NZ, imported artisans, they are still running manufacturing and engineering businesses in our country and created jobs. I'm glad they at last woke up, and will hopefully stop discriminating against white artisans.

  • croix - 2011-02-16 14:04

    Hey Enoch, I've very bad news for you, bud - you have gone BACKWARDS in ALL aspects on ALL fronts since 1994. The lack of the required skills is felt right through the whole wide spectrum of your party's governance, but I doubt very much whether you are going to lose sleep over this?

  • Legolas - 2011-02-16 14:04

    The Department of Education is NOT helping good quality technical colleges. I've been a witness to this. Excellent lecturers are getting demoted and self-generated funds of this college (in top ten colleges of SA) gets redistributed to other colleges who are NOT performing (mostly due to lecturers that's absent in lecture rooms). Put your money where your mouth is and INVEST in technical Colleges Mr. Godongwana.

  • the truth - 2011-02-16 14:09

    What the minister has neglected to mention is that in 70’s there were also apprenticeship programmes at firms and artisan training collages but the ANC government destroyed both of these not the private sector

  • Twiggy - 2011-02-16 14:09

    Perhaps if the process was not so laboriously complicated and if more organisations would be willing to take on the students, we would see an improvement.

  • Sean - 2011-02-16 14:12

    Since the government brought out a section 28 artisan which is considered qualified after a couple of theoretical courses what do you expect. I am a qualified section 13 and am now in a senior position managing construction sites as are all the people similarly qualified and the rest have left the country for greener pastures. Qualified artisans that were trained and passed up till the period of around 1996 have become sought after in other countries and that is where they are. The ones left here are now in management positions, so how are they going to find the skilled people to train the youth?

  • Mell - 2011-02-16 14:14

    I am confused, why are we looking at figures for 2000 when we in 2010?

  • corro51 - 2011-02-16 14:18

    I am a qualified Mechanical Engineer, but have found it nearly impossible to find employment in SA. I now work outside of the country. So something in this piece doesn't add up.

  • mmdmm - 2011-02-16 14:21

    Give the artisans an incentive to train aprentices - the current labour Laws / minimum wages for example are extrreme a private artisan cannot afford to employ apprentices anymore and don't forget the constant strikes and yes I am an artisan and have tried to train many a person - the majority are only interested in high wages for as little work as possible.

  • Graham - 2011-02-16 14:21

    Whilst I agree that the major corporations have cut down on training apprentices because of the profit motivation, I also query why school leavers are not interested in signing up for the vacancies that are available. Everybody wants to go to University and " try " and get a degree and then battle to find a position whereas a qualified artisan can earn very good money and companies are crying out for these artisans. Try and get a plumber to repair something at your home for less than R400 per hour or get work done on your car for less than R500 per hour.

  • Rodney - 2011-02-16 14:23

    Shame poor SA , why do you think nobody wants to become an artisan , because nobody wants to get their hands dirty , everybody wants to walk around with a collar & tie . Those that do end up as artisans are paid peanuts for their trouble . There are countless SA trained artisans working abroad getting 3 & 4 times what they can earn in SA . Believe me we are highly respected in other countries for our good training and excellent work ethic . We are building the economies of other countries because SA does not see the value of the artisan .

  • Paul - 2011-02-16 14:25

    Joke!!!!!!! Who's going to train them. The old salts "instructors" have long died or emigrated. 3 years ago, on radio OFM, a person from the department of labour stated that the average age of Olifantsfontein qualified artisans was 53 years old. There's a huge void and I'm earning a good salary selling my Olifantsfontein skills in the market place. I'm 54 thos year.

  • Retha - 2011-02-16 14:25

    Look at those numbers wanting to add 47000 artisans in 3 - 4 years. No way, and at what experience level. You don't have a competent experienced Engineer in 3 Years. Be realistic at least.

  • Tonsil - 2011-02-16 14:26

    It is a pity that nowadays a trade gets looks at as being inferior to having a university degree. A person with a degree cannot manufacture anything - Artisans can. Government must restart the technical colleges that were there before 2000. Most of SA's artisans are working in Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, UK and the US after being retrenched so that their previous employers could comply with equity quotas.

  • alan - 2011-02-16 14:30

    I was trained in the SAR&H started 1970 and had an excelent training like so many other artisans did in those days. we were well trained and well disiplined. once you completed your trade test in Oliphants fontien and passed only then were you. to allowed to work on your own with the guidence of an senior artisan and then realy learnt how to do the job properly. I went to a discussion the other day and it was discussed that the youngest well traind artisan average age was 49. too all of those who were traind in that era has and still does run their own companies very well.

  • listen up - 2011-02-16 14:32

    - No problem - minister Patel reckons we'll have 30,000engineers and 50,000 artisans in no time at all . I think his impossible target just got harder . The man has'nt got a clue .

  • Zappa - 2011-02-16 14:38

    Why???.....because you keep on with the BEE/AA.EE bull, that is why. Good people are leaving have left the country so that they can support their families, and work. These are the people, if it was done correctly, that could have trained others. You are never going to learn...

  • HORACE - 2011-02-16 14:39

    the mining house where i was involed in training,stopped artisan training & brought in the learnership scheme,which ha done nothing but downgrade the status of the atisan. i was told at the time it was to get more people trained solely for the mining industry. the whole scheme backfired as the people coming out of the scheme were no good to man or beast

  • PNP - 2011-02-16 14:46

    How many of those skilled artisans have left SA for greener pastures? Is it because we also don't look after them when they qualify?

  • Boychild - 2011-02-16 14:53

    Key Skills Target of 30000 engineers and 50000 artisans in 4 years, what a laugh...... They should be able to train them but very few will qualify as the average matriculant through 25 year olds have very low mathematical and language skills, both key factors in getting the training done. Also they will have very few entrants as everybody wants a "job" based on their "Tertiary qualifications" so that they can sit and do didly squat...... just saying

  • mike - 2011-02-16 14:53

    How many of these skilled artisans leave SA for greener pastures?

  • JA - 2011-02-16 14:54


  • Graham - 2011-02-16 15:02

    I think he'd better talk to Jimmy Manyi, "there is no skills shortage"

  • charles gottschalk - 2011-02-16 15:02

    Its about time someone woke up to this major problem the government should introduce community service into all degrees and diplomas. just like doctors or Occupational therapist have to server their time in communities so should fashion designers, economists, builders, etc. Government should incentives business to bring learners on board. Start them from First year, during their summer breaks they must work on a stock room floor, sit in a CMT factory, spend time on a building sight. Encourage the learner to further him/herself. Most students do a degree in economics or finance and don’t know what to do with themselves on completion. At least with this forced grounding they will have some idea what they are getting themselves involved with. What ever happened to the good old days, when you had to do your apprenticeship for 4 years before you could be a professional trader. So I say incentices business to take on students, encourage students to want to further. This avenue will only be beneficial to all parties concerned.

  • Marius - 2011-02-16 15:03

    And where are they proposing to find the skills to be able to train the artisans?

  • James Bond - 2011-02-16 15:06

    He forgot to mention that the tutors have also left the country due to AA

  • Elichia - 2011-02-16 15:10

    The main reason we have dropped from 33 000 to 3000 artisans is due to BEE AA. All our qualified artisans have left the country and there is no one left to train apprentices.

  • Gen - 2011-02-16 15:11

    I qualified as an apprentice at a private company. The company was given a tax break to train me. I inturn worked for low pay with fixed increases over the three contract until I did my trade test at the end of the term. After qualifing, the company had no obigation to give you job if they felt that you were of no use to them. On employing you, you were given a living wage and the future was yours. Today that no longer happens, you now leave school with a failed matric and hope that you will find a job. The government in their wisdom removed all the training instuitions (thinking that with freedom came skills?). All those with skills left with the knowledge gained and now help other countries prosper. It is time for the government to get people to pass woodwork for example before letting loose in cabinet making (no pun intended). The people must realise that only they are in control of their future and that the vote only fills the position they cannot because they not smart enough too.

  • skt - 2011-02-16 15:17

    The answer lies that in 1975 the country was not run by the current government and that COMPETENT people were employed to perform tasks.

  • Michelle - 2011-02-16 15:17

    They should also bring back the 'oupa' system of training. Train the older wiser people to become artisans. They are more focused and loyal.

  • HendrikAfrika - 2011-02-16 15:34

    At last somebody has noted it. Artisans, we need qualified artisans. The numbers are down from 30000 in 1975 to some 3000 in 2007. Enoch Godonsy ask why? I will tell you why. It is because like most other things that were worth something your government has brought the standard and quality down. FAST TRACKING is what it is called. Nobody wants to be an artisan anymore, at least not a South African qualified artisan. Whereas before 1994 our artisans were the backbone of our industry and recognized worldwide. With the advent of the change in Government in 1994 it was quickly recognized that they needed to increase the number black (previously excluded people) artisans in this well sought after category of skilled workers. The problem was that this skill was not easily achieved, it took three to four years of being trained as an apprentice and attending an appropriate Technical College course for a boilermaker, fitter and turner etc. Then, the main thing, you had to PASS a proper practical trade test at a center specializing in trade test e.g. the old Olifantsfontein trade test center. The government quickly recognised that the population group previously excluded from this route of qualification were not up to the quality required to pass these trade tests. Anyway their better students were rather send to university which is surely the correct thing to do. For the non-graduate artisan discipline (surely these guys do not need four years or good quality people) the period required for working as an apprentice was reduced to something like six months with no proper testing at the end only proof that they were employed in the appropiate position for the required period. They were then 'qualified' as artisans. The result was a product that could not do the job and nobody wanted to hire them. They themselves quickly noticed that this was a 'career' with no future and any worthwhile candidate avoided this route of training. That, is what is called FAST TRACKING. How many artisans from all races could have been trained (PROPERLY) from 1994 and you know what, proper artisans create employment opportunities around them. They start up successfull small businesses that grow employing more and more people. THIS fast tracking, that has been the creation of the current government, is the MAIN reason why millions of job opportunities are lost. Your voters should crucify you. By now we would have had thousands and thousands of proper trained artisans with a successfull industry and many successfull small businesses with intrepeneurs that would have been welcomed by existing industry as BEE partners. Overall we would have had an increase in employment figures not a decrease as it stands at the moment. South Africa's government has completely derailed a well organised and efficient training of practical engineers. Parents, unemployed youngsters, it is not to late to turn it around. With the subsidies that our president, Jacob Zuma, had announced (in his state of the nation address) the system could be brought back on track - but forget about the fast tracking - do it properly. One of the problems with the decisions since 1994 is that it was made by people that had no idea of what the actual situation was and what effect their uninformed decisions would have. INSIST that government apply and adjust the training of artisans correctly. You can do it, you overcame appartheid, now overcome the short sightedness of your repressentatives in government. Tell them to do the right thing, you have the vote, look at the long term. We have a new opportunity. Get people that know what is required for the system to work to sit with the government departments involved and let us look back in ten years time at a success story. REMEMBER the four years proper training and proper TESTING and forget the short cuts. Jacques

  • james - 2011-02-16 15:44

    I got my trade through Eskom, now my son wants to become a plumber, but we are unable to find any institution that offer apprenticeships. He started with a plumbing company earning R2000/month and would have to complete 5 years before being qualified. He earned more being a cloths salesman in a designer sports shop. Disillusioned to say the least.

  • Fanie117 - 2011-02-16 15:47

    This real nonsens, I matriculated in 2005 and I wanted to become a fitter and turner like my dad, I tried 3 times at different companies, they were not "accredited" and I couldnt qualify. I went to 4 companies do be a boilermaker, they also were not accredited. Because they dont want you to be qualified, because then they have to pay you more. I quit those jobs, because I cant work for R1800 per month while I now "this boat is going now where!! And not even talking about my applications for goverment training. I applied 4 times for the SADF and 3 times for the SAPD, and 2 Times for the Metro Police, and 2 Times for Fire Brigade. Moral of the story. I to white to work!!

  • Doped - 2011-02-16 15:52

    CRISES....WHAT CRISES. Our govt don't know what a crises is utill some one pulles the pin from the grenade....and then they only hear the explosion in a few years later. There is a world wide shortage of trained artisans and we close down the training facilities so that we have none.

  • Jim Bean - 2011-02-16 15:56

    I see a lot of industries laying off staff at the moment due to "economic hardships". We don't need artisans...There isn't enough work for them to do...

  • Yam - 2011-02-16 16:02

    Why don't young black people want to be artisans? The artisans I know always have work... there will always be a need for their services! And they make really good money too! It might not be seen as sexy but getting paid is... especially when there is such a shortage you can pick and choose!

  • greg - 2011-02-16 16:08

    The reason we dont have the apprentices we desire is that companys wont accept a appi that has not got matric maths and science .There are certain individuals that may not have the school result but who have got the knowledge and talent to become a tech.Would love to know how many of the 30000 had matric in 1975

  • Victor J Pitsoe - 2011-02-16 16:49

    The SA’s artisan shortage is a policy imperative and has direct relationship with Technical Education – both aspects should not be seen as separate silos. Technical Education is a critical component in addressing the shortage of artisans, and plays a vital role in human resource development of the country by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life. The need for technical education is growing rapidly in the world due to the changing economic and industrial demands and challenges which are is increasingly becoming more high-tech, requiring a higher level of education from employees and workers. For this reason, there is need to rethink SA’s Technical Education policy in line with the emerging trends in economic and industrial context.

  • Zion Pay - 2011-02-16 16:52

    There is a general perception that qualified artisans, myself included, are under an obligation to train apprentices. It is expected of artisans. An atrisan, like other workers, sees himself as someone who has to do a job. Apprentices tend to get in the way and besides they have never received a training allowance to train appies. Where I done my apprenticeship on the Railways there was ample training staff and facilities to train apprentices. The standard of training has dropped drastically over the years. School leaving young men and women tend to steer clear of apprenticeships and their motives are usually money. Our youth expect a high salary while only in a training capacity. My first pay slip in 1969 was R1.65 after deductions. Basic salary was R65/m

  • steve - 2011-02-16 16:54

    Our son was declined entrance to uct to study electrical engineering with 3 A's and 2 B's (in appropriate subjects)in matric. So if they are declining future electrical engineers from university education, where will the artisans come from? Some tosser below said we don't need artisans - poepal, artisans can be self employed and can also create employment thus reducing the social grant problem. One of the our biggest problems in SA is that of unemployment! Artisans create employment!

  • sean - 2011-02-16 16:56

    What most people in government don't realise is that good artisan's are highly skilled. I did an N6 with a 3 year apprentiship as industrial electrician in 1990 and today I am very well paid by my employer for that skill. You cannot learn this skill in 6 months. Takes years to be any good. I personally am quite happy with the shortage. Have never been unemployed in 20 years

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