In his recent budget speech, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said raising the number of trainees who qualify as artisans will be a “special priority” for government going forward.The options include offering employer’s tax incentives, as well as subsidising salaries for artisans between the ages 18-29. This is also part of a move to pump up employment levels.

One of the reasons cited for the subsidising of salaries is that trainees, after qualifying as artisans, often still battle to find gainful employment due to inferior skills levels, or lack of experience.

“This could be a major fillip for the industry – and as a means to increase the number of artisans in SA, which is needed to handle the government’s long-awaited R847 billion infrastructure projects,” said Sean Jones, co-founder and director of the black-empowered artisan training academy, Artisan Training Institute (ATI).

“The government has hit the nail on the head this time,” he says. “Often the level of training received by want-to-be artisans is not up to par – due to the deficiencies in some of the FETS and private training centres. This makes it hard for them to find gainful employment as artisans – as they were not trained properly in the first place.

“Over and above this, some artisans – even if they are well trained – still battle to find jobs as they are deemed inexperienced. But the only way they can gain experience is by working, and learning, on the job. With the government considering paying subsidies to companies employing artisans from the age of 18-29, great strides can be made in both the gaining of the much needed experience – on the job – as well as increasing the levels of employment in the country.”

Millions of young South Africans are excluded from participating in economic activity and, as a result, suffer disproportionately from unemployment, discouragement and economic marginalisation. High youth unemployment translates into the reality that young people are not gaining the skills or experience needed to drive the economy forward. Indeed, the lack of skills can have long-term negative effects on the economy as a whole.

“I believe the government’s employment tax incentive – paid to employers – is helping to address this problem as it aims to increase youth employment through encouraging the private sector to employ by subsidising the salaries of newly recruited employees between the ages of 18 and 29.

“This is a bold move and I believe it will have a material impact on both the artisan training and employment situation. This, frankly, shows the importance of tax incentives for skills development as the private sector is being encouraged to hire individuals with a lack of skills – and these individuals, therefore, are able to hone their skills through actually being professionally employed. By learning, and improving, while on the job,” said Jones.