A skilled workforce

For the Eastern Cape economy to grow, a skilled workforce is a necessity. Raising the skill levels of enough South Africans to push the economy forward has become a priority at national, regional and local level.

A number of interventions have been launched in the public and private sphere including:

  • Six of South Africa’s biggest construction companies have established a R1.25-billion skills fund.
  • The national Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) declared the period starting in 2014 as “The Decade of the Artisan” with the ultimate goal of producing 30 000 per year (the current figure is about 13 000).
  • The National Skills Authority (NSA) is implementing the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS). The Human Resource Development Council of South Africa (HRDCSA) gives guidance to the many institutions working on skills development and training
  • TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges have been tasked with producing skilled artisans in 13 trade areas, including bricklayers, millwrights, boilermakers and riggers. R16.5-billion has been allocated by national government.

Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) form an important part of South Africa’s master plan to tackle skills development – sourcing funds to support placement of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students to gain workplace experience. Each SETA is responsible for a Sector Skills Plan.

The Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Authority (MerSETA) plays an important role in the Eastern Cape, home to so many of South Africa’s automotive and automotive parts companies. The authority is involved in the National Tooling Initiative and artisan training, especially with regard to creating a skilled workforce for the Coega Industrial Development Zone. MerSETA helped establish the Centre of Excellence for Welding at the Eastcape Midlands TVET College in Uitenhage.

A national programme of the Local Government SETA (LGSETA) offers learnerships in auditing to municipal employees. Among other SETAs active in the province are the Services SETA and the CathsSETA (Culture, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport).

Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET)

The Eastern Cape has eight Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) colleges, most of which have more than one campus: Buffalo City, Port Elizabeth, Lovedale, King Hintsa, Ingwe, King Sabata Dalinyebo, Ikhala and Eastcape Midlands College. King Sabata Dalinyebo offers business and engineering studies among its formal programmes, and short courses in bricklaying and computer studies.

Over 20 000 students are enrolled at this level in the province. The Eastcape Midlands TVET College has five sites: in Graaff-Reinet and Grahamstown and three in Uitenhage, where students can study Business Studies, Electrical Engineering, ICT and Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering. The other campuses specialise in Business Studies.

Lovedale Public TVET College serves the community through three campuses at King William’s Town, Alice and Zwelitsha, near King William’s Town. The programmes of each campus reflect the economic priorities of that region. In Alice, the focus is on agriculture, King William’s Town offers business diplomas, while engineering is available to students at the Zwelitsha facility.

Buffalo City TVET College, with two large campuses in East London and Mdantsane, specialises in Business and Engineering for full-time studies, but offers a wide range of part-time courses as well. The college’s School of Occupational Training is located at St Marks Road.

The provincial government has committed a sum of R1.5-billion over five years to aligning TVET colleges more closely with the needs of the local economy through learnerships.

Auto skills

  • The Mercedes-Benz Learning Academy in East London has MerSETA accreditation. A R130-million agreement between Mercedes-Benz and the Jobs Fund (run by National Treasury) has set high goals for the academy in tackling skills shortages, and not just for the auto-manufacturer.
  • Another Jobs Fund initiative is putting 135 unemployed engineers to work over three years, in partnership with the Automotive Industry Development Centre Eastern Cape (AIDC EC) and its members.
  • Tyre manufacturer Goodyear has an engineering training facility in Uitenhage, with a focus on the training of instrument technicians.
  • The Uitenhage Despatch Development Initiative (UDDI) is working with Filpro in offering township mechanics a two-year Informal Automotive Service Centres Development Programme. The first group of 106 trainees include generalist mechanics, tyre repairers and panel beaters from KwaNobuhle, Khayamnandi and KwaLanga. Filpro is largely funded by GUD Filters and promotes entrepreneurship in the automotive industry.
  • Volkswagen’s Commercial Trainee programme has been running for 15 years. Students with a non-technical qualification are exposed to practical experience in departments such as Finance, Logistics, Purchasing and Human Resources. Volkswagen has five learning academies in Uitenhage. Open to employees and to suppliers, the academies’ programmes are SETA-accredited. and offer a range of courses available through workshops, exercises, e-learning or on-the-job-training.

Other developments

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) has opened an engineering materials laboratory to test materials for use on roads in the Eastern Cape, which will also be used to give graduate engineers experience. This will form part of SANRAL’s experiential learning programme.

Meroe Skills Development was the service provider used by SANRAL when it put 20 contractors through a programme to train them to make dolosse (concrete blocks to mitigate wave action on the coast). The venue for the training was the Heartlight Community Learning Centre in Walmer, Port Elizabeth.

Premier Hotels trains chefs and hotel managers through its Academic College SA. Professional Cookery and Beverage Management are among the diplomas.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is investigating the feasibility of establishing specialist maritime schools in South Africa’s coastal provinces, including the Eastern Cape.

Published in the 2017 edition Eastern Cape Business

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