SA govt wants 30 000 new engineers, 50 000 new artisans by 2014

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The South African government aims to find ways and means to produce at least 30 000 additional engineers by 2014 and 50 000 new artisans by 2015, according to its New Economic Growth Path (NEGP), released in Parliament on Tuesday by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.

The state BuaNews agency added the NEGP has set South Africa “an ambitious target of creating five million jobs and reducing unemployment from [the official] 25% to 15% in the next 10 years.
“The centrepiece of the new growth path is a massive investment in infrastructure and people through skills development, together with smart government and better coordination with the private sector and organised labour,” Patel told the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Economic Development yesterday.

The minister, a former textile trade union general secretary, acknowledged that there would be challenges with regards to implementation of the plan. “We have too many agencies and too little co-ordination between them.” The New Economic Growth Path will look to the green economy, agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism industries for most of the employment opportunities.

The plan further calls for commitments from government’s social partners, the unions and business, such as ensuring moderate wage increases and capping pay and bonuses for executives earning over R500 000 a year. It also seeks the creation of a comprehensive social security system that fosters an improved savings culture in the country. Business Day newspaper reports Patel also laid out what he believes should be the cap on earnings for employees, with workers earning between R3000 and R20 000 a month, receiving “a modest increase” above inflation. Pay increases for workers earning under R3000 he believes are open to negotiation, while increases for those earning above R20 000 to R45 000 a month would peg inflation. High-earners taking home over R45 000 a month would see increases below inflation or capped. He also wants restraint in executive pay and bonuses would address excessive pay differentials and display solidarity across society.

BuaNews continues the strategy has a series of micro and micro economic measures aimed at helping the country reach its growth targets. Some of the measures are:
* Ramping up competition policy to create a more equitable marketplace
* An effective rural development policy
* Stepping up education and skills development, including a review of the training system
* Producing 30 000 more engineers by 2014 and 50 000 more artisans by 2015
* Promoting small businesses and entrepreneurship by creating a single agency to consolidate Khula, SAMAF and the Industrial Development Corporation funding
* A revamp of black economic empowerment, which will include incentivising employment creation
* Developing more focused trade policies, which better identify opportunities for exports

BuaNews notes the NEGP, successor to the 1994-vintage “RDP” and the 1996 “GEAR,” leans on the recommendations made by the Commission on Growth and Development’s Growth Report, released in 2008. The report suggested that policymakers should target five areas if they wanted long-term economic growth, namely:
* Remain open to the world economy and new ideas
* Maintain macroeconomic stability
* Sustain high rates of saving and investment (about 20 to 25% of national income versus South Africa’s 16%)
* Allow the markets to allocate resources
* Maintain committed, credible, and capable governments

Business Day newspaper reports Patel added improvements in South Africans’ education and skills levels were “a fundamental prerequisite” for achieving targets. The broadsheet says President Jacob Zuma wants agreement on SA’s “new growth path” by January, so that the government can roll up its sleeves and get to work implementing the initial short term measures aimed at this end.

Emphasising the importance of “social dialogue” on the government’s master plan to meet its election promise of “decent jobs” for all South Africans of working age, Patel said a “radical review” of SA’s artisanal and technical training system. With Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande poised to release SA’s third national skills development strategy, much of this work has already been done. A date has not been set for this, but Nzimande has said he hopes to release the strategy this month.
“The draft human resource development strategy for SA addresses these goals,” Patel said in the executive summary of the New Growth Path document. The new plan proposes that South Africa’s 21 sectoral education and training authorities (SETAs) agree to “numerical targets”, and that state-owned enterprises have annual targets set for them regarding the number of artisans they fully train. The apprentice system would also be reviewed.

The broadsheet adds Nzimande has already received industry praise for reversed the bias of former education minister Naledi Pandor towards higher theoretical learning and returning artisan training to a focus on practical workplace apprenticeship.

The NEGP also seeks to place broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) in a growth and employment framework. Business Day adds it calls for a substantial revision of BBBEE Codes to increase employment, skills development and new investment.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has given the documnt a cool reception, saying that at “first glance, this appears to be a thoroughly problematic move by the administration.” Patel’s DA shadow, Kobus Marais, said the NEGP followed on “another set of disappointing growth figures” earlier yesterday “and in recent months we have witnessed regrettably little improvement in the overall employment situation in the country. We desperately need growth and we need a real vision to achieve it. On a first reading, however, this plan includes several proposals that have only vaguely articulated goals with equally vague plans on how to actually achieve these goals.”



The trade union Solidarity noted the South African economy “could only manage to grow by a mere 0.7% in the past two years,”just one tenth of the government’s target of 7%. The government Statistics South Africa agency says gross domestic product (GDP) figures for the third quarter of 2010 was 2.6% and follows 2.8% (adjusted from 3.2%) in the second quarter of this year and 4.6% in the first quarter.