'Skills must be used before they are forgotten'

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

South Africa's economy is growing rapidly, but unemployment and poverty were still serious problems, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said this week.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day Skills Revolution Indaba on Further Education and Training (FET) held at Clairwood Racecourse in Durban from Monday, Mlambo-Ngcuka said South Africans lived in a global economy where they were expected to compete economically with other nations. To win this competition South Africans needed to have different skills.

She said the shocking reality was that there were people who reached the age of 35 without having worked.

Expressing her concern about the lack of skills, Mlambo-Ngcuka said the days where a man would keep cattle to pay ilobolo for his sons were long gone, and owning the biggest piece of land without the skills to farm that same land would not put food on the table.

"This country is in great demand of people with skills to grow vegetables to sell," she said.

Unemployed people who only depended on social grants to survive would pass their poverty and unemployment to the next generation.

To prevent their poverty from being passed to the next generation, parents needed to empower their children with education and skills, and the FET colleges were a recognised platform.

"Our goal as government is to ensure that education and training reaches young people in the deep rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal such as Ixopo, Nquthu and KwaNongoma," Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

The shortage of skills was also related to literacy levels.

KwaZulu-Natal has earmarked more than R100 million, secured from the Department of Labour, for literacy and basic skills development.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said that this was why the government had committed itself to alleviating unemployment and poverty by 2014.

She urged the private sector to help FET students to get job placements so that they did not forget the skills they had learnt.

"Through integration of theory and practice, a student comes out of a FET institution armed with a meaningful qualification which can be readily applied in the workplace," she said.