When the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) launched the Decade of the Artisan campaign in 2014, Nelisiwe Duba (24) could not believe her luck as she immediately saw this as her chance to pursue a career in the trades and becomes a successful female artisan.
“I was still in high school when the campaign was launched,” says Duba, who hails from Ermelo in Mpumalanga.
The Decade of the Artisan campaign aims to produce 30 000 artisans per year by 2030, as indicated in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 and the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training.
Since childhood, she always found joy in using her own hands to fix and create things, and it is not surprising that eight years after the launch of the Decade of the Artisan, Duba is now a qualified artisan.
In 2022, she obtained a Mechanical Fitting and Turning qualification in Manufacturing and Construction of components from Sedibeng TVET College in Vereeniging in the Vaal area.
Duba was among over 350 artisans from various Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges who graduated during the ceremony of the Centres of Specialisation (CoS) that was recently held at Emperors Palace Hotel in Ekurhuleni.
The overjoyed Duba says she decided to pursue an artisanal career because she is a very creative and open-minded individual.
“Fitting and turning is a great fit for creative people. I also majored in Mathematics and Physical Science in high school, and that helped me to meet the requirements needed for this course,” Duba says.
She believes that artisanal careers can help people, especially the youth, to open their own businesses.
“As artisans, we are highly skilled and have gifted hands. Because job opportunities are getting scarce in our country, artisanal careers can help people open their own business and create job opportunities for the youth,” she says.
Duba encourages young people to consider artisanal careers so that they can be independent.
“With funding, you have the skills to start your own business besides working for someone else. One can do special trades or courses like welding, electrical engineering and plumbing [amongst others],” she says.
Now that she has completed her studies, an optimistic Duba says the future looks bright for her.
“I am currently looking for employment where I can apply the skills I acquired over the three-year period as an apprentice. The goal is to one day open a training centre or have a fitting and turning workshop of my own,” she says.
“Also, winning the Skills Competition that was recently hosted by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Cape Town, where I won a big toolbox, has been an eye opener and triggered the thought of owning a workshop one day,” she adds.
Concern over the number of artisans produced by SA
Addressing the ceremony, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, emphasised the need to drastically increase the number of qualified artisans produced per year in order to realise the country’s National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 target.
He noted a decline in the total number of learners who entered artisanal learning programme with 10 302 learners having entered the programme during 2020/21 financial year, reflecting a 36.5% (5 916) decline when compared with the 2019/20 financial year.
He says South Africa needs at least 60% of school leavers to pursue artisanal training to meet the country’s demand for the scarce skills. The country is currently producing an average of 20 000 qualified artisans per year.
“We honestly need to do more to encourage school leavers to pursue technical trades, as government expands technical and vocational education,” he says.
He adds that there is a continuous need for suitably qualified artisans to sustain industries and support economic growth in South Africa.