Artisan training institutes and South African corporates in general need to seize the opportunity presented by the government’s large capital infrastructure investments, worth more than R1-trillion in the next decade, by ensuring that enough artisans are trained to meet this “groundswell of practical work” that will be required.
This is according to Sean Jones, a director of Artisan Training Institute (ATI), who says some market estimates believe this infrastructure investment from government could top R3,2-billion over the next 20 years.
This means that it is not only the private sector which needs to gear itself up for this increased demand – “government needs to work with the private sector to ensure that the country has enough qualified artisans”.
“Failing this, it will be exceedingly difficult for these plans to be properly and timeously executed.
“As things stand right now, we are hearing these big numbers being bandied about, but we, in the industry, are unsure whether or not we will be able to cope, on the ground, to ensure that these projects are properly and timeously completed. There are just not enough artisans in South Africa to cope with this kind of workload.”
South Africa’s Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande, has already stated that moulding qualified artisans is vital in South Africa’s fight against poverty and unemployment. He says the development of qualified artisans to support the economy is a high priority for his department – and for the government.
This is becoming increasingly important as users pause to consider the many infrastructure projects in the country, which will require a significant number of qualified and competent artisans in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance.
Commenting further, Jones says the announcement of the infrastructure spending by government is “certainly good news”.
“It will play a large part in growing the economy and providing job opportunities. But talk is cheap. This scale of infrastructural development will require the right level of skills to be implemented – and completed – and South Africa is falling far short at this juncture,” Jones says.
“One of the problems we are facing is that being an artisan in South Africa still carries something of a stigma. But some plumbers – certainly in large metropolitan areas – can earn more than doctors. Overseas, being an artisan is not frowned upon. People understand that it does not necessarily mean that you will be a lower earner.
“We need to encourage a mind shift change in this country. Training people – especially under-privileged people – to become artisans, will play a part in alleviating poverty. Artisans can earn good salaries and this will place those who gain formal employment in a position to elevate their lives, increase their disposable incomes– and provide for their families.”
Jones points out that more than 95% of apprentices who are trained by customers at ATI are offered full-time positions as artisans when they qualify.