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Written by: Zingisa Mkhuma

Johannesburg – Matriculants who want to walk straight into jobs after completing their higher education should switch the image of success in their minds from suits to overalls.

As the class of 2015 enrol for higher education and training, a top recruitment firm has suggested they consult the national skills shortage list.

They would learn from this that they would have to acquire technical skills if they did not want to join the 25 percent of South Africans who were unemployed.

“Matriculants today should be looking at the engineering and artisan sectors, specifically millwrights, welders, petrol and diesel mechanics, plumbers, electricians and the like,” said Angela Dick, the chief executive of recruitment company Transman.

Read: ‘Half a million opportunities for matrics’

Eighteen of the top 31 scarce skills in the country were in this sector.

Dick debunked the perception that technical careers were lowly, with meagre earnings in comparison with office jobs.

“These are highly paid, respected professionals who will always be able to earn good money, whether as an employee or as an employer,” she said.

The Department of Higher Education and Training announced this week that more than 500 000 study opportunities were available.

“In 2016, our universities will provide access to 212 472 new entrants,” Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said.

While many will enrol for courses at institutions, taking advantage of the variety of offerings, the country will not need some of the skills they will attain in the next three to four years.

They will become unemployable graduates, and will need to acquire other skills or take up jobs in the informal economy, despite their degrees or diplomas. What is certain is that by 2030 the country will require at least 30 000 qualified artisans a year, as envisaged in the National Development Plan.

This is why the government has adopted artisanship programmes at public technical and vocational education and training colleges.

Positions for trade-tested artisans are some of the most difficult to fill as there are few candidates in the market, according to recruiters.

“It is critical to note that to be accepted into an artisan programme, matriculants must have completed mathematics and science, with a minimum mark of 50 percent in each of these subjects,” Nzimande said.

“Artisan work has become much more technologically advanced and requires a higher skill level.”

For matriculants who want to become qualified artisans, but do not have mathematics and science, bridging courses are being offered at technical and vocational education and training colleges.

However, pupils in lower grades intending to find their spot in the sun after their studies need to prioritise maths and science as these are also prerequisites for scarce skills in other fields, such as information technology (IT).

Dick said there were “huge opportunities” in IT, but finding the right candidates was difficult. Parents and students needed to keep abreast of the country’s developmental plans, as these pointed to the kind of skills essential for growth.

“With infrastructure development being a big part of the government’s plans, specifically to meet the country’s economic growth plans, structural, civil and building engineers are in the greatest demand, along with artisans in the construction environment.”

Students have acknowledged they did not take such factors into account in making their career choices.

But film and television student Tebatso Molapo, 19, said she was interested only in pursuing her passion.

She said she was not worried about finding a job at the end of her studies as she intended to establishing her own business.

Molapo said she and her peers were not aware of the national scarce skills list, nor did technical skills such as plumbing, agriculture and mechanics appeal to them.

Read: ‘Matric certificate not good enough’

“My peers never consider what skills are required. They look at how much they will be getting paid and what their parents think proper jobs are.”

Molapo confirmed Dick’s view that the government was not doing enough to make the youth aware of the opportunities. She said there was a need to urgently focus on meeting the national education and skills requirements.

The SA economy’s most-needed skills (published May 18, 2015):

Forestry technician

Agricultural engineer/scientist

Sheep shearer

Architect

Construction project manager

Land surveyor/quantity surveyor

Urban and regional planner

Actuaries and risk assessors

External auditor

Financial investment adviser

Engineers and technologists, including earth and life sciences

Geologists

Air conditioning and mechanical services, plumbers

Artisans in all fields (electricians, mechanics, boilermakers, toolmakers, welders, fitters and turners)

Mechatronics technician

Metal fabricator

Archaeological/palaeontological specialist

Bio-economist/biochemist/bio-informatician

Food scientists

Laboratory technologists and technicians

Polymer scientist

Seismologist

Soil scientist

Toxicology scientist

Water resource scientist

Health professions and related clinical sciences (including veterinarian and retail pharmacist)

Construction safety, health, environment and quality agent, manager, officer

Astronomer

Foreign language speakers for specialist language support and technical or sales support (German, Swiss German, Flemish, Greek, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and French)

Business analyst/quality analyst

Academics and researchers in various fields (space science and technology; calibration and imaging of radio interferometer data; pulsar research; green computing-extreme performance at minor energy cost; antenna design).

Sunday Independent

Article sourced: IOL