South Africa has made progress in improving skills and giving young people the opportunities to meet their aspirations.
This is the view of higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor, who said there had been questions about whether South Africa was preparing itself properly to manage shifts in the types of skills and work that would be part of the fourth industrial revolution.
“The successful surgery at the Steve Biko Hospital yesterday [Wednesday] highlighted the immense innovative capacity we have in South Africa,” Pandor said at the National Skills Conference in Boksburg on Thursday.
Pandor was referring to an operation by a team from the University of Pretoria which conducted the world’s first surgical procedure using 3D-printed middle ear bones. This surgery could be the answer to conductive hearing loss and middle-ear problems.
Pandor said that as part of its responsibility to identify skills needs in South Africa, the department had developed a list of occupations that were in high demand.
“Occupations in high demand are defined as those that show relatively strong employment growth and/or are experiencing shortages in the labour market, or which are expected to be in demand in future.”
She said the list of about 370 occupations had been developed for a range of reasons, some of which were to support planning at universities and TVET colleges and for macro-planning at national level.
“More specifically, the list helps young people to make informed decisions regarding their subject choices in grade 10 and subsequently to make informed choices regarding fields of study for further and higher education.”
Pandor said the list also assisted the National Skills Fund as well as the education sector, training authorities and other organisations that provide bursaries and scholarships to allocate resources towards occupations that were in high demand.
Pandor said the list of occupations in high demand identified white collar occupations in the ICT field such as ICT project managers, systems analysts and software developers, among others.
The list also identified blue-collar occupations such as carpentry, plumbing, pipe fitting, welding and sheet-metal work that were in demand.
Pandor said more young people were acquiring skills. As an example, the number of doctoral graduates had increased.
“We are going to reach the National Development Plan target of 5,000 doctoral graduates by 2030; we are halfway there.”
She said universities and research councils had increased research output, up to 18,000 publications, in the past few years.