While many are simply talking about the lack of artisans in the country, MEC of Education, Tate Makgoe, intends to actually do something to promote the vocational stream as an alternative to the academic stream.
Makgoe revealed that he plans to increase interest among scholars in the vocational stream. While Makgoe did not provide detailed information on how he aims to do this, he hinted that he aims to hold a workshop for students at schools across the province to raise awareness of the careers available in the artisan field, with a particular emphasis on welding.
“Our average age of artisans now is 55 to 56 years old, which essentially means that today’s youth will very likely not have people like mechanics and electricians as there is no interest in this field,” Makgoe said.
Relaying the severity of the shortage of welders in the country, Makgoe revealed that he recently found out that power giant, Eskom, had to import over 10 000 welders from Asia to build the Medupi Power Station in Limpopo as there were not enough welders in South Africa to be employed for this project. Makgoe blamed this skills scarcity on the over-emphasis society places on white-collar professions that are pursued through academic streams such as a university. This has led to blue-collar trades and the colleges where these can be pursued being neglected or in some instances be looked down upon.
He said this overemphasis has also affected other industries such as health and nursing. “We took nursing out of Pelonomi Hospital (the former Mangaung Nursing College of the Free State) to universities, and now we are facing a problem of nursing staff who cry when they see blood. It’s not supposed to be like that. Our nurses who were trained during the Apartheid regime are respected all over the world because they were trained in hospitals and on a different platform. With the advent of democracy, we assumed that education only meant university and now we are faced with a problem of nurses who have been to university but are unemployed because they lack the proper hospital skills and training. This is something we never used to have,” Makgoe said.
He further stated that learners, schools and parents alike need to realise that academic professions only account for 15 to 20% of the population, while the remainder of the population is occupied by people in various other professions.
In order for the proliferation of artisans in the country to occur, both parents and students alike need to realise that apart from matric, there are various other exit points available to learners at schools, which begins in Grade 9 when learners are required to choose whether they will pursue an academic or vocational stream.
Makgoe was speaking in Bloemfontein at the Fidel Castro Building where he embarked on a social media campaign using his official Facebook and Twitter accounts. During the hour-long campaign, various members of the media that were present, as well as followers of the MEC, mentioned social media platforms and asked him pertinent questions with regard to basic education in the province. Makgoe provided answers on each question posed through a live streaming video on his Facebook page. He stated that he aims to embark more on these kinds of campaigns and urged residents to be on the lookout and prepare their questions on issues they have with regard to education in the province.
Through these campaigns, Makgoe said, he hopes to foster social cohesion and make education a societal issue.