BRAIN DRAIN, REALLY?
by Hanli Goncalves | Managing Director |
Much has been said in the past few months about the government’s plan to allow students to leave school after completing Gr 9. Some applaud the initiative, but to most it is yet another red flag indicating a slow disintegration of our education system with the ripple effect being felt throughout the economy.
With unemployment at a 15 year high of 29%, 58 % of the youth (those under the age of 32) unemployed, a GDP rate of 1.3% in 2017, 0.7% in 2018 and a measly improvement to 1.5% in 2019, one has to ask a few hard questions.
Is lowering the school leavers age and qualification not going to exacerbate this dire situation to a greater extent?
Will the current assumed brain drain leave the country with a larger unskilled labour force? (I say assumed as according to Stats SA, the annual emigration figures have only risen marginally over the past few decades, from an average of 21 000 leaving the country per annum to approximately 23 000 leaving at present).
Will SA not be creating a monster in not educating its youth and therefor putting us on the backfoot with regards the 4th Industrial Revolution and the skills repercussions associated with it?
I believe the entire education system needs an overhaul, subject relevance needs to be addressed, and the curriculum reinvented. Rome was not built in a day, and so too can drastic change not be implemented overnight. Academic subjects past middle school age, only hold importance to those wishing to follow on to a classic tertiary level: a degree in its current form.
For decades we have upheld obtaining a degree, or even two, as the pinnacle of success; the holy grail each parent seeks for their child from the minute they are conceived, without which one could not possibly succeed or be taken seriously within our society. But is this not the reason our generation has rendered the very fabric of our economy?
Have we not been placing too high a value on an academic education, and denigrating artisanal, and other more mundane vocational careers, thereby creating an imbalance in the workforce? Currently 31% of undergraduates below the age of 24 are unemployed, according to The South African Council for Graduates Cooperative. They have 30 000 unemployed graduates on the database, 3580 from Universities, 7890 from Universities of Technology, and 20 008 from TVET colleges.
There are no current statistics available on the total number of unemployed degreed graduates across all age bands, but one just has to look at the amount of people commenting on social platforms about being educated and unemployed to understand the enormity of the situation.
Jesse Duarte was quoted in an article in Business Tech on 6 August of this year, saying there is a shortage of 40 000 skilled artisans in SA at present. This begs the question. If there is a shortage of qualified artisans in South Africa, why are there so many TVET college graduates without employment? Does this mean that the 20 000 unemployed artisans are not skilled? Why can they not fill the positions currently available?
The current average age of an artisan in SA is 55. This is problematic, as retirement is going to rob us of this skilled force over the next few years. Government’s plan to encourage more artisans, by reducing the school leaving age, and channelling these pupils into vocational training institutions makes common sense, but if they are going to end up unemployed due to a lack of skills, why is this angle not being addressed?
Government has identified the need to produce more artisans. According to the experts, we are currently producing 15 – 18 000 artisans a year, but we need to increase this number to 30 000 a year to make up the foreseen deficit over the next 10 years. However, if these artisans are not employable, what do we need to do to change the situation? Is it a question of quality of qualification, or a lack of experience that determines their employability?
Why does South Africa have artisans listed as one of the highest sought-after immigrant applications, if we have 20 000 qualified, unemployed artisans right here? Should we not be looking to bridge the experience gap, and make these artisans more skilled as a first step in the process rather than looking outside of our borders for expertise?
Skills, education, and gainful employment is a quagmire of unanswered questions. We call on companies around South Africa to join hands with us and help us find solutions to these problems. Help us show the youth what they need to do to become valuable members of society who will propel us forward. Collaborate with us in bringing forth the change that is so desperately required in SA right now.
Statisctics found in Stats SA (http://www.statssa.gov.za/)