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Artisanal skills under the spotlight

What’s South Africa doing to encourage young artisans? Find out here.

A hearty well done to Ernest Beneke, a third-year Port Elizabeth TVET College apprentice, who won gold at this year’s WorldSkills South Africa (WSZA) Biennial National Competition which took place at KwaZulu-Natal’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre from 7–10 June. Congratulations must also go to fellow apprentice Ceajay Bosman, a second-year automotive motor mechanic apprentice, who came second this time around, but who also took Gold in the automotive motor mechanic sector at WorldSkills Africa in Namibia earlier this year. 

It is hoped Beneke and Bosman will go on to represent South Africa at the 46th WorldSkills International Competition, to be hosted in September, where more than 1 600 participants from over 60 countries and regions will compete in tests challenging 63 different skills.

Unsurprisingly, PE College Facilitator Gerhard Pretorius is extremely proud of the college’s achievers. Pretorius himself is benefiting from training provided through the German Chamber of Commerce (or Handwerkskammer – HWK), which aims to support teachers’ training skills. This programme, which was launched in partnership with TVET colleges in the Eastern Cape along with RMI, has been highly successful in improving the quality of education received by upcoming artisans. Indeed, says RMI’s training director Louis van Huyssteen, it is exciting to see trainers – and by extension, learners – gaining an advantage in an increasingly competitive global industry simply by enjoying greater access to international training trends. “Teacher training can only boost South Africa’s sector,” Van Huyssteen says.

Van Huyssteen noted that the World Skills Biennial National Competition – which is organised by the Department of Higher Education – also has a role to play in uplifting the industry. It’s about conveying the importance of artisanal skills and showing the value attached to these skills. By creating this platform to assess levels of competency among participants, the Department of Higher Education is also promoting technical qualifications as a first choice among South Africa’s youth – important in view of the skills shortage currently facing the industry.

Recognising this challenge, the Department of Higher Education has identified the automotive motor mechanic trade as one of 13 trades to benefit from its Centre of Specialisation Programme, which emphasises facilitator training.

Sabelo Buthelezi, Chief Director of the department’s Special Projects Unit, says that the results achieved by PE College is proof indeed of how much can be accomplished when teachers receive a little extra assistance and support. He encourages these changes to be incorporated into the curriculum so that South Africa’s artisans can compete confidently no matter where in the world they find themselves.