A simple Google search on the lack of artisans will show that it’s not just a South African issue, it’s a global challenge. With so many industries using mechanised manufacturing processes, people who work with their hands have been side-lined. The problem is often exacerbated by the belief that a degree will solve unemployment, as well as the lack of good training and mentorship in specific skills.
In 2012, the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) established the Artisan Development Technical Task Team in an effort to improve the quality of artisan training as well as explore the main blockages facing artisan development systems.
According to the HRDC, ‘The lack of apprenticeship opportunities is one of the main obstacles facing artisan learners, which means that while a young person may achieve a suitable qualification at a TVET college, he or she may subsequently discover that they cannot obtain the necessary work experience to enable them to take a trade test. The poor quality of teaching in many of the TVET colleges also results in a high dropout rate among learners. However, a great deal of work is being done to address these challenges.’
It was noted by, Deputy Secretary General of the ANC, Jessie Duarte, that there was shortfall of 40000 qualified artisans in South Africa. Recent statistics indicate that the average age of artisans in South Africa is 55 years, while the number of young people being trained to produce the next generation of artisans was only a fraction of what the country needed.
Nithia Pillay, Director Customer Services for Samsung South Africa, says, “There are so many more opportunities for youth with practical skills – South Africa needs more skilled labour. One of the arenas in which skills are highly sought-after is the technology and engineering sector. This is why Samsung has invested in Engineering Academies that not only offer training, but also viable career paths and real jobs.”
Programmes geared towards inclusivity have increased opportunities for women to enter into trades that were traditionally reserved for men and female artisans are on the rise. Samsung’s engineering academies offer not only practical training, but also work experience and placement consideration at Samsung and its value-chain partners.
To ensure youth are given hope for the future, it is imperative to change the narrative around what it means to be an artisan and ensure that these much-needed skills are properly taught, and career opportunities are opened up for those who opt to become an artisan. It is only by setting up programmes such as the Samsung Engineering Academies, that South Africa can begin to address unemployment as well as grow the economy.