There are 101 scarce skills on the South African government’s recently published list of them and while the local defence industry is not named, various engineering disciplines along with specific electrical and mechanical qualifications could find homes in a sector of industry desperately in need of skills to produce internationally competitive products and services.
The list was compiled by the Department of Home Affairs. The exodus of defence-related skills is led by those departing troubled Denel and major decreases in local defence spending that is impacting on the private sector.
Included in the 101 categories are research and development, manufacturing operations, engineering, supply and distribution and data managers, all who have places in the local defence industry. By and large, the descriptions of the skills needed are generalised and do no refer to any specific manufacturing sector such as aeronautics, ammunition and ballistics, among others.
The same applies to the physicists, chemists and materials scientists Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi hopes to attract to South Africa. Engineering disciplines needed in South Africa range from industrial through mechanical and include aeronautical and naval architects, which have specific reference to the local aerospace and maritime sectors, both civilian and military. Biomedical and chemical engineers along with metallurgists are also contributors to the defence industry as are those qualified in electrical and energy engineering.
Information and computer technology are, as with the majority of other economic sectors, essential to the functioning of the local defence industry. Specialists in areas ranging from software to programming are on the Home Affairs Minister’s list along with other aligned disciplines.
Mechanics, machinists and millwrights are also on the list and have their place in the local defence industry alongside instrument technicians.
In his preamble to the Critical Skills List, as part of the Immigration Act, Motsoaledi states the skills or qualifications listed are “critical” for South Africa as regards critical skills work visas or permanent residence permits.