Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga officially launched the Rhodesfield Engineering School of Specialisation in Ekurhuleni on Tuesday (31 July).
The school, which is open to pupils with a ‘passion for aviation’, is aimed at combating what the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) has warned will be a ‘calamitous future’ due to the massive skills shortage in the country.
The AASA said it needs around 60,000 new pilots, technicians and engineers, while globally some 480,000 additional technicians will be needed by 2026 to maintain the growing aircraft fleet. It added that 350,000 pilots will also be needed to fly them.
“Success in the school subjects of languages, mathematics and science, forms the basis for participation and success in technical subjects in post-school education and training institutions as well as the workplace,” said Motshekga.
“Presently, each year around 140,000 grade 12 students complete the matriculation examination with a bachelor’s pass, and of these only around 50,000 students pass mathematics with a score higher than 50%,” she said.
“But with only a handful of students making the cut for access to university and science based Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes, the need for such schools, is even more urgent.”
The Schools of Specialisation are part of the Gauteng Education Department’s Reorganisation of Schools Programme, which takes its lead from the National Development Plan (NDP).
According to the NDP, for the country to stop poverty, reduce inequality and ensure that all citizens have better working and living conditions by 2030, South Africa needs to produce over 30,000 qualified artisans a year to meet the labour demand.
“The SoS will focus on maths, science, engineering, commerce, entrepreneurship, sports, arts and culture. This is in line with the NDP injunction that we must meet a target of 450 000 learners being eligible for a Bachelors programme with Maths and Science every year till 2030,” said Motshekga.
She added that according to the expat and international mobility group Xpatweb – which recently published the results of its critical skills survey – engineers, ICT specialists and specialised technical skills are the ‘most needed’ skills.
“We hope that by honing skills in these areas, it will be able to transform schools in Gauteng and help grow the skills base needed for economic growth in the country at large. I am certain that this ground-breaking initiative will grow the skills base of our learners beyond Gauteng,” said Motshekga.