Top SA defence industrialist calls for more investment in training and skills


One of Africa’s leading industrialists, Ivor Ichikowitz of Paramount Group, which employs highly skilled engineers and technicians in South Africa, has called for more investment in the skills development of young engineers.

This follows the recent Medium Term Budget Policy statement in which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan suggested that a shortage of skilled workers is a major factor in holding back the country’s economic growth.

Ivor Ichikowitz – who recently donated more than ZAR 180 000 to support youth education programmes – is founder and Executive Chairman of Paramount Group, South Africa’s largest privately-owned defence and aerospace contractor.

According to Ichikowitz: “The country is faced with a serious skills shortage and we need to address the issue. Recent research has shown that ‘34% of all South African businesses see a deficiency of skilled workers as a major obstacle to expansion.’*

“Paramount is a global business, manufacturing in Jordan, India and Azerbaijan. We understand how fundamental a developed skills base is to growth. If Africa is to continue to establish itself as a global industry leader, the next generation must be carefully nurtured. Without investment in science and maths, the continent’s future in high technology could be jeopardized.”

Paramount owns a 19% stake in South Africa’s largest aeronautical engineering business, Aerosud, which manufactures components for the new Airbus A380, A400M as well as Boeing. The company employs South Africa’s top-skilled engineers, designers and technicians to manufacture high tech components such as fuel supply systems and wing and fuselage components.

“I am passionate about the maintenance of world-class defence and aerospace in Africa but without the necessary support, its future is fragile. We must lay solid foundations and, as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has indicated, the time to act is now.

“Home-grown talent and skills are crucial to continuing to establish the African defence and aerospace industry worldwide and Paramount recognises the continent’s youth as the sector’s future.”

“At Aerosud, the commitment to high level aerospace engineering skills is extremely important and is demonstrated by the hundreds of engineers trained each year by the company.

“Training is at the heart of Paramount’s business, from providing training to support peacekeeping missions, rehabilitation training for prisoners to become skilled workers in fields such as car maintenance, up to high level training for aircraft pilots.

Visitors to the Africa and Aerospace Defence (AAD) Exhibition 2010 were invited to decorate the Paramount’s Maverick internal security vehicle with coloured handprints. For every handprint on the vehicle, Paramount donated R250 to the Youth Development Programme (YDP) which promotes and facilitates career opportunities and training within the aerospace and defence sector, raising a total donation of ZAR 130, 250.

An additional donation of ZAR 50, 000 was made to the Department of Defence’s Military Skills Development System (MSDS), a programme which promotes career opportunities within South Africa’s military forces. The donation was made in person by Mr Ichikowitz during a visit to the Alta Du Toit School for children with learning difficulties.

Janine Fredericks, chairperson of the YDP added: “It is with extreme gratitude that we accept this generous donation from Paramount. This donation helps the programme to continue with its important work to boost interest in the industry amongst young people and support their burgeoning career paths. Not only do we at the programme appreciate this generosity, but more importantly, so will the young minds that will benefit from it.”

Mr Ichikowitz concluded: “We are thrilled to be involved with leading programmes like the YDP and the MSDS, and embrace our responsibility for the future of Africa’s technological advancement. Its young engineers must grasp the opportunity they have to enter its most exciting and innovative industry, but they are going to need our help.”