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Artisans could Save South Africa from Recession

Written by Melissa Lai of Training Force

Workforce Holdings and our group of companies offers a wide range of leading human capital solutions. Our array of businesses are organised into clusters, and our Training and Consulting Cluster is of particular importance when it comes to upskilling.

Within the Training and Consulting Cluster, Training Force is a registered training provider focused on delivering industry and job-specific skills assessments and training interventions to businesses and their employees across a variety of industries. Training Force’s aim is to help develop more productive workforces by delivering practical training programmes that upskill and uplift employees. Training Force’s Melissa Lai took a close look at why artisans might be the exact thing our economy needs.

It’s a double recession, they say. It sounds bad… and it is. Essentially a double recession means that while we were already in recession (maybe recovering, maybe stagnant) we’ve hit another snag and even our recession is in recession. Unemployment in South Africa is at its highest level in 15 years and, despite Covid-19 hitting global economies hard, we’re still one of the worst.

The buzz phrase has been “critical skills shortage”. When we hear it we think of nurses and doctors and medical staff, but what it really means is that we don’t have enough artisans. To meet the demand for scarce skills, South Africa would need 60% of school leavers to enter artisan training. The artisanal trades are in demand both locally and internationally. Gone are the days when you needed a university education to move up in the world – the artisan is making a comeback in a big way.

What is an artisan, you ask? Artisans are highly skilled and qualified people who primarily work with their hands – they are people who are in vocationally focused trades and occupations. That is, an artisan works in a technical field, doing skilled manual labour. Artisan skills currently needed to grow the South African economy include bricklaying, plumbing, boilermaking, carpentry, welding, and mechanical engineering.

South African culture has developed to prize university education over skilled labour. This view, however lofty, is neither realistic nor constructive considering our high unemployment rate and the massive demand for skilled labour. The missing link in the chain is the desire to train in the artisan trades, and, of course having access to such training. An investment in artisanal training could increase a person’s access to a higher income and make them very attractive to international markets. Being skilled in a trade also opens up opportunities for entrepreneurship in the future. While we wish we could rely on public funding to fill this gap, the onus is on the private sector to invest in training and apprenticeships, and work on the retention of skilled labour.

Training Force offers a variety of courses geared towards the development of artisanal trades for both individuals and companies alike. Talk to us about upskilling in the artisanal trades.

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