South Africa is in dire need of artisans or skilled manual workers before the World Cup

Lihle Mtshali

Lihle Mtshali

South Africa will host the soccer World Cup in 2010 and, in preparation for the event, new buildings, stadiums and various other forms of constructions can be seen mushrooming across the country. But the construction and engineering industries are faced with a skills shortage crisis because there are not enough artisans. The crisis has resulted in reports of shoddy workmanship at building sites.

Artisans are skilled manual workers who use tools and machinery for a particular craft. They are most commonly found in the engineering and construction industries. Artisans undergo practical training as part of an apprenticeship.

Government's Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa), in response to the skills shortage, last month released a plan to produce 50000 artisans by 2010. To achieve this goal, a yearly turnover of 12500 artisans over the next four years is needed. This will mean that there will be an additional 30000 artisans by 2010.

"About 16 trades have been identified as the most critically hit and Jipsa is working in partnership with role players to bridge the gap," said Glen Fisher, head of Jipsa's secretariat.

Performances of the sector education and training authorities (Setas) would be improved and Jipsa would be working more closely with employers and training colleges, said Fisher.

There is a need for welders; carpenters; fitters and turners; millwrights; motor mechanics and automotive mechanics, among others.

Norman Moyo, head of skills at Central Johannesburg College, said: "The average artisan today is 55-years-old and if we don't train aggressively now we will have a serious problem in the next 10 years."

Skills training that is offered by technical colleges can teach somebody who has never built anything in his life to read a plan and build a fully fledged house, said Moyo.

To become an artisan, a candidate must complete theoretical and practical training in a specific trade. The theoretical training is done at a technical college and to complete the practical training candidates must sign up for a learnership or apprenticeship with a company. They will be taught the skills of the trade while working under the guidance of a qualified artisan.

Once candidates have served the required time at college, reaching National Qualifications Forum (NQF) level 4, and have enough workplace experience they must write a trade test that will qualify them as an artisan.

If a person has been working in a particular field, has a minimum of a NQF level 2 and has accumulated five years' working experience, then he can write the trade test to qualify as an artisan.

If candidates put themselves through college, then it is known as a self-funded programme. But Setas, in partnership with colleges, also have learnership programmes. The college offers theoretical training while the Seta funds students' studies.

"There is serious demand and opportunities for artisans with all the construction that is happening in the country, so there are many career growth prospects if someone chooses a career as an artisan," said Moyo.