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SA needs to tackle skills scarcity

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A three-pronged strategy is required in order to develop the skills South Africa needs.
According to a GE Skills Paper, these are: a stronger education system with closer links to industry; more open and flexible labour markets and a broader talent localisation strategy pursued in partnership with global companies; and the pipeline of skills needed to leverage the technological advances of tomorrow.
Bianca Tulumello, human resources director for GE Africa, says: “South Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to boost growth, create jobs and improve social stability, thanks to a burgeoning population. Helping to drive the education agenda in South Africa, and on the rest of the continent, is one of the key priorities for GE.”
In 2014, South Africa’s list of the top 100 scarce skills in the country included Electrical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Quantity Surveyor, Programme or Project Manager, Finance Manager, Physical and Engineering Science Technicians, Industrial and Production Engineers, Electrician, and Chemical Engineer.
GE has committed up to $5-million to a GE Scholarship programme run in partnership with the African Leadership Academy to enable students to attend the Academy.
All stakeholders need to work towards improving the quality of the education system at all levels. According to the GE Skills Paper, the youth account for 55% of South Africa’s working-age population however this segment of the workforce faces additional obstacles to find employment. Youth unemployment remains a pressing issue and, as a result of the 2009 recession’ the unemployment rate among youth rose from 32’7% in 2008 to 36’1% in 2011 and has subsequently remained between 35% and 37%.
With the South African government’s National Development Plan seeking to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030, the country is relying on the public sector, the private sector and partnerships between both to support inclusive growth, which is best achieved with a skilled workforce.
The research conducted by GE shows that, beyond youth skills development and skills development in the transportation sector, the healthcare and energy sectors are key areas in need of a skills boost. For this, and other areas, GE has invested R500-million in a Customer Innovation Centre in South Africa that will be a centre of excellence for innovation and technology transfer as GE localises solutions for the African continent.