South Africa to invest more in science graduates

6 June 2014

The government is to beef up its investment in programmes that provide work opportunities to unemployed science and engineering graduates in a bid to unlock their potential to contribute to economic growth, newly appointed Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Wednesday.

Briefing journalists in Pretoria on her department’s plans for the coming years, Pandor said South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) placed education, training and innovation at the centre of the country’s long-term development.

Her department would therefore focus on growing the country’s skills base in science, technology and engineering, as well as on modernising infrastructure such as laboratories and IT equipment.

Pandor said the department’s workplace preparation programmes, which currently provides opportunities for 700 unemployed graduates to gain work experience in science, engineering and technology institutions, would be expanded over the next few years to cater for up to 1 000 graduates at an annual cost of R80-million.

“In addition, the [department] will invest R400-million per annum to support postgraduate students,” Pandor said, adding: “We need to massively expand funding in this programme to increase the number of knowledge workers in South Africa.”

Regarding established researchers, Pandor said her department would continue to invest in the Centres of Excellence Programme and the South African Research Chairs Initiative (Sarchi). By 2015, spending on Sarchi “will have grown to about R450-million per annum, with all 157 research chairs fully operational”.

It was crucial, she said, that “we transform the science, technology and innovation sector so that we can tap the potential of all South Africans. We need to attract and retain research excellence and create career pathways for highly skilled young researchers, particularly black and women scientists”.

SAinfo reporter