Universities are updating their courses to help address South Africa’s skills shortage

Higher Education, Science and Innovation minister Blade Nzimande says that the country’s universities and colleges are in the process of adapting their curricula to be relevant to skills required by South Africa and the rest of the world.

The aim is to produce world-class graduates who can participate and grow the South African economy and help in the local job creation drive, Nzimande said.

“At various intervals, our universities align their study programmes to these national priorities, whilst our TVET colleges are gradually aligning their programme offerings to the needs of local employers and communities,” he said.

Nzimande said that some of these changes are happening within current programme offerings while many colleges are introducing new occupational offerings in demand within their specific local economic context.

“In addition, there has been an extensive review of much of the TVET curricula to make them relevant and keep them current, and this will continue for the next several years. The focus at the moment is on digital and related skills to meet job demands driven by the 4th Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Trades 

Nzimande said his department has also initiated different programmes aimed at encouraging young people to become artisans.

“In 2014, we launched the Decade of the Artisan at Ekurhuleni East TVET college, which is a campaign that seeks to promote artisanship as a career of choice for South Africa’s youth as well as highlight skills development opportunities for artisans.

“This was aimed at developing qualified artisans to support the South African economy, particularly in light of the successful implementation of the Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SPIs).”

In 2017 the department began with the establishment of ‘Centres of Specialisation’ in more than 20 colleges focusing on 13 designated trades.

Concerning artisan training, Nzimande said that the number of registrations in the 2018/2019 financial year was 29,982.

However, due to the economic slowdown and Covid-19, this number dropped to 16,218 in 2019/2020, and the number is expected to drop further in 2020/2021 due to the current pandemic.

He added that the pandemic affected all the skills development providers, including public and private.

Record-high unemployment 

Statistic South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QFLS) for the second quarter of  2021 shows the country’s unemployment rate has risen to another record high.

The results show that the number of employed persons decreased by 54,000 in the second quarter of 2021 to 14.9 million. Stats SA said that the number of unemployed persons increased by 584,000 to 7.8 million compared to the first quarter of 2021.

The number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 186,000 (5.9%). The number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 571,000 (4.5%) between the two quarters resulting in a net decrease of 386,000 in the not economically active population.

These changes increased the official unemployment rate by 1.8 percentage points from 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021 to 34.4% in the second quarter of 2021 – the highest since the start of the QLFS in 2008.

According to the expanded definition of unemployment, the unemployment rate increased by 1.2 percentage points to 44.4% in quarter 2 of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2021.


Read: 6 changes planned for schools in South Africa

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Universities are updating their courses to help address South Africa’s skills shortage