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Enhancing skills development

The State of the Nation Address is a major pointer to enhanced skills development in our country, says merSETA Acting CEO Wayne Adams.

South African State President Cyril Ramaphosa lauded the automotive industry in our country during his State of the Nation Address last month.

And it is no surprise that this sector is a champion, given its extensive investment in the new wave of technology and productive processes that demand new skills and complex problem solving.

Investing heavily in education, training and skills upgrades, the automotive industry has taken on with full force the challenges posed by the fourth industrial revolution, with its concentration on digitisation, automation and robotics.

According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA, the automotive sector contributes 6.8% to GDP.

The industry accounts for 29.9% of the country’s manufacturing output and 14.3% of South Africa’s total exports. Vehicles and components are exported to 155 international markets while the sector employs 110,000 people in vehicle and component production.

In his speech, President Ramaphosa outlined seven priorities, with education, skills and health the number two priority.

“Drawing on our successes in the automotive sector, we will implement master plans developed with business and labour in industries like clothing and textiles, gas, chemicals and plastics, renewables and steel and metals fabrication sectors.

“We are going to substantially expand the agriculture and agro-processing sector by supporting key value chains and products, developing new markets and reducing our reliance on agricultural imports,” the President said.

The intense focus would include sectors such as global business processing services, agricultural value chains, technical installation, repair and maintenance and new opportunities provided through the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution.

All these sectors are the key focus areas of the various Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

Our drive, as the merSETA, is in line with the President’s priorities. We have boosted our outputs in the past financial year, particularly focusing on ensuring our learnerships, apprenticeships and skills programmes cater for the new demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In the last five years, there has been a tremendous spike in investment in
the automotive sector with more than R30-billion spent on new assembly plants, techniques and robotics.

With this has come more focused training and skills development, the merSETA being an intricate part of this.

In light of the above, human capital, specifically skills and talent management, now becomes the cornerstone for the success of new investment plans. For without the requisite knowledge and skills, it will be difficult for our sector to maintain international and competitive standards.

Fortunately, the merSETA has excellent training arrangements with key pillars of the automotive industry. Our role is now to ratchet up the programmes that seek to ensure proper skills and labour in the industry.

We are comfortable in the knowledge that the merSETA will play its vital role, and our successes will filter through to the end user of the auto industry’s products – the consumer/client.

If ever the country needed a vote of confidence in our investment climate, productive capabilities and economic stability, the President’s SONA is it.