24 April 2008
South Africa has set itself a target of producing up to 2 500 engineers per year, as part of the government’s Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa), to help the country deal with skills shortages.
“Jipsa has targeted a limited number of priority skills thought to be some of the key constraints to economic growth,” said chief economist in the Office of the Presidency, Alan Hirsch, on Wednesday.
“The key ingredient to growth was going to be that as government we could invest in roads, electricity, water and housing, in order to increase the capacity of the economy . in order to do all of that we need engineers.”
Jipsa was created out of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (Asgi-SA), which aims to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014.
Speaking at a report-back briefing on Jipsa’s activities for 2007/08, Hirsch highlighted that at the beginning of this decade, the output of engineers from South Africa’s education system was very low.
“By the time we got to 2007, the output of engineers had already increased to about 1 500 per annum from a low point of about 1 200 per annum at the beginning of the decade,” he said. “We want to take it up to 2 500 engineers per annum as soon as possible.”
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka added that the “Train the Trainer” project had to be prioritised in order to improve the quality of education in the country.
She further urged learners who had dropped out of high school before completing Grade 12 to go back and complete their education, warning otherwise that they would only “swell the ranks of the country’s unemployed”.
In addition to an amount of R48-million provided in 2006, the government has committed approximately R439-million between 2007 and 2009 towards improving education infrastructure in the country.
The Jipsa 2007 report contains strategies to increase the number of registered and practicing engineers in the country, including increasing the number of engineering graduates and retaining and re-employing retired engineers.
The issue of foreign recruitment of specialised labour had also become very important, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, adding that the Department of Home Affairs was currently involved in actively promoting South Africa as a destination for chemical, materials, civil, structural, and mining and quality engineers from abroad.
“We are aware that we are busy losing skills [through immigration], which has now made the work of Jipsa more tricky,” she said, pointing out that the global environment had changed a lot since the skills acquisition initiative was launched.
“There is a need now for us to up our game.”