Although the Western Cape still has the lowest expanded unemployment rate in the country it increased from 20.7% in February to 27.3%, according to the Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released at the end of September – an increase of 6.7%.
According to Elsie Harmse, managing director of the Africa Skills Group the trend confirms the urgent need for professional skills training among communities in the province. Harmse is concerned about the lack of technical and business skills among young people leaving school early or after matric. “Not everyone can attend university, however, artisan and business skills and management skills training remains within reach on a college level.”
David Maynier, the Western Cape minister of finance says lockdown and especially levels 5, 4 and 3 earlier this year had a major impact on the provincial economy. Compared to the same period in 2019, 321 000 jobs have reportedly been lost. “This is having a devastating effect on people’s lives in the Western Cape.”
Maynier says skills development means more and better opportunities. It means that jobs can be considered where unskilled workers would never be able to venture. Skills are a key to the economy growing, businesses expanding and job creation.
The concern is rising that South Africa’s quality of education continues to decline. “More school-leavers are less and less skilled. Lack of skills among prospective workers is one reason for high unemployment. The unskilled job seeker has fewer options than skilled graduates,” says Harmse.
“New skills enable youth and unemployed people to find employment in the mainstream economy. With new marketable skills, the possibility of formal employment is increased significantly ensuring a regular salary and benefits which is impossible prior to skills training. It means more opportunities.”
“Historically we had decades of unequal education, emphasising the importance of access to skills training. Now hardworking and dedicated South Africans all have an equal option to choose training in the skills required to function in the current economy,” says Min Maynier.
Harmse mentions that many skilled workers left South Africa due to the rise in violent crime and perceived better opportunities abroad. “They need to be replaced continuously and the increase in poverty and dependence in state grant are to be addressed through formal skills qualifications.”
The skills crisis in the country and the province is calling for affirmative action within all communities. It seems that many South Africans who could now take the positions opened to them by fair employment practice are not equipped with the required skills. This situation needs to be addressed with urgency.
“Without up-skilling the workforce and skilling of the youth and unemployed transformation is effectively leading to increased unemployment and incompetent workers working in jobs ineffectively.”
Harmse regards suppliers of skills, business and management training as the access to cost-effective and often paid skills. “Through skills training school leavers and unemployed people will be able to improve their own and their family livelihood sustainably.”
Recently Umsizi Sustainable Social Solutions pointed out that companies are spending billions of Rands on outsourcing skills. In recent years literally, hundreds of billions of Rands have been spent on contractors and consultants who have the skills that the labour force lacks.”
Harmse is urging school leavers to engage in formal skills training in their field, be it plumbing, electrician, welding, carpentry, IT, office or management skills. “Integration of effective skills development into business development plans and Corporate Social Responsibility plans of companies will also be making a real difference.”
Applications are currently open for 2021 skills training courses. As from 2021, the Africa Skills Group is also offering a new option with the opening of the Knysna Skills Training Centre.