Skills Development in South Africa

skills development for poverty eradication

More than a buzzword: Why Skills Development is Intrinsic to Long-Term Poverty Eradication

One of South Africa’s major challenges is the lack of skills in its workforce. Skills development for those seeking employment is a mammoth task. It needs government and private sector involvement. Without a skilled workforce, poverty eradication is impossible.


Why we have a skills shortage

Many factors have led to South Africa’s skills shortage. Detailed discussion won’t be possible here. But some understanding of the causes can help us address the problem.

The educational policies regarding the majority of our people before 1994 were awful. They had a detrimental impact on skills development in South Africa. It is a factor that fostered poverty. But why does it seem we haven’t made the necessary progress in skills development over the last 25 years?

One factor among many is that many high school students simply don’t gain the skills to pursue tertiary qualifications. Government spends almost 20% of its budget on education. Government rightly devotes 6 times more to poor pupils as compared to middle-to-upper class pupils. Despite this, the matric pass rate of poor pupils continues to decline. This means fewer and fewer matriculants with the skills to pursue a university education. In this environment, skilled workers aren’t being produced. Even if government offers free university education, many students won’t be able to enrol for academic reasons.

Another factor is this country’s lack of quality teachers. The complex nature of teachers unions is still another factor. Studies suggest the more unionised teachers become, the worse the results for learners.

We already had an unequal base due to almost 40 years of Bantu education. The aim of that system was to produce unskilled workers. Its legacy has been perpetuated since 1994. Even in nations as developed as America, there has been a decline in the educational system. South Africa’s decline started from a far more unequal basis.

We have also seen a shortage of skilled artisans. One factor contributing to this is artisan schools closing down. There is a lack of exposure to these careers. The opinion that artisan work is undesirable adds to the decline.

Many of the few skilled artisan and workers migrate for better opportunities abroad. This perpetuates the lack of skilled workers in South Africa.


Benefits of skills development

An obvious benefit of skills development is that a skilled person is more employable than an unskilled individual. A person with marketable skills has more opportunities. They are more likely to find employment. Employability is a major factor if we are to see long-term poverty eradication.

Another benefit is that skilled people have better options to start their own businesses. With our economy’s structural issues job placement is not assured. Skilled individuals could still struggle to find an employer that will pay them a salary. But someone with marketable skills who isn’t on a payroll could find their own clients. They could earn a living as their own boss. This is an option not as available to unskilled workers. Skilled entrepreneurs are a major factor in addressing poverty in any country.


Umsizi will help your company implement skills development programs

Umsizi designs and implements skills training as part of corporations’ Socio-Economic Development Programmes. We have a track record of success in implementing sustainable social solutions including education and skills development programmes in impoverished communities. These include basic education training, life skills, and specialised skills development. There is also a focus on entrepreneurship development.

We also run these programmes as part of our own CSI programme, Impophomo Rushing Waters. For more information on this NPO, you can see our page here or Impomphomo’s skills development page here.

Your corporation might have a particular set of skills in mind that you want to see developed. We will formulate a unique strategy to suit your company’s profile. We will incorporate the development of that skill-set in your corporate Community Engagement Plan. We can make it part of your Sustainable Livelihood Strategy. Whatever your company’s needs we can and will make effective skills development part of your community development action plan. Your business can contribute to long-term, sustainable poverty eradication.



Historic factors, Bantu education, the decline of American education:


Youth unemployment and entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation:


Skilled South Africans leaving:


Importance of skills development:


Lack of teachers and union issues:


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