'SA needs many more artisans'

SOUTH Africa needs more artisans to help meet the needs of the economy, Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande said yesterday.

Nzimande, who was speaking at a press conference on post-school options for the class of 2009 at the University of Johannesburg, said his department was in a drive to produce more artisans from this year.

"Our target is to produce at least 12500 artisans a year, which requires a dramatic increase of the average qualification rate of 5600 a year."

Nzimande said artisan skills were scarce in the country. He said that there was a need to help children from poor backgrounds realise their potential.

"We are aware that it is the children of the poor who are disproportionately represented among those who do not succeed, and who are under-represented among those who excel."

He said these children needed to be encouraged to do better.

Nzimande said the department was determined that pupils who passed matric and were accepted into the universities, but did not have money, would get financial assistance. He also encouraged school leavers to make use of learning opportunities at the FET colleges.

"As part of government's commitment to strengthen our skills and human resource base, we intend to broaden access to post-school education over time. I have previously indicated that the shape of our post-secondary system is not appropriately balanced between universities and colleges," he said.

Nzimande said pupils who would not study full-time and wanted to work should pursue opportunities in the SETAs for learnerships, apprenticeships and skills programmes.

"We are pleased to announce that SETAs will be recruiting 35000 learners into these programmes during 2010. Further 2500 will receive opportunities for skilling into creating their own new ventures."