When the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) launched the Decade of the Artisan campaign in 2014, Nelisiwe Duba, who was in high school at the time, could not believe her luck as she immediately saw this as not only her chance to pursue a career in the trades, but to become a successful female artisan entrepreneur.
Since childhood, the 24-year-old from Ermelo, Mpumalanga, finds joy in using her own hands to fix and create things. It therefore is not surprising that eight years after the launch of the Decade of the Artisan, Duba is now a qualified artisan after completing a Mechanical Fitting and Turning Course in the Manufacturing and Construction of Components.
The Decade of the Artisan campaign aims to produce 30 000 artisans per year by 2030, as indicated in government’s National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 and the White Paper for Post School Education and Training (PSET).
Duba was among the artisans who were awarded certificates at the Artisans Graduation Ceremony for the Centres of Specialisation (CoS), held in Ekurhuleni on 29 November 2022.
The graduation ceremony, which was addressed by Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, saw over 350 artisans from Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges awarded certificates after successfully completed their studies in various fields.
An elated Duba, who enrolled at Sedibeng TVET College in Vereeniging said 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 someone who has a creative side, hence I chose this field. While in high school, I was doing Mathematics and Physical Science, which helped me to meet the requirements needed at the college.”
Duba believes that artisanal careers can help people, especially the youth, to open their own businesses.
“As artisans, we are people who are highly skilled with our hands. Job opportunities are getting scarce in our country, an artisanal career can help you open your own business and create job opportunities for the youth of South Africa.”
She encouraged young people to consider artisanal careers because “being an artisan allows you to be independent”.
“With funding, you have the skills to start your own thing besides working for someone else. One can do specially trades or courses like welding, electrical and plumbing [amongst others],” Duba said.
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.
“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 eye opening in terms of opening my own workshop.”
Concern over the number of artisans produced by SA
Addressing the recently held graduation ceremony, 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.
Nzimande noted a decline in the total number of learners who entered the artisanal learning programme, with 10 302 learners having entered the programme during the 2020/21 financial year, reflecting a 36.5% (5 916) decline compared with the 2019/20 financial year.
According to the Minister, South Africa needs at least 60% of school leavers to pursue artisanal training to meet the country’s demand for scarce skills. The country is currently producing on average 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. This is amongst the reasons there is a continuous need for suitably qualified artisans to sustain industries and support economic growth in South Africa,” the Minister said.