SA needs mindshift about artisans

Originally published Jan 25 on Fin24

There needs to be a mindshift in South Africa about artisans, both by educational institutions and the broader population, according to Sean Jones, CEO of the Artisan Training Institute (ATI).

Currently the failure rate at universities is sitting around 50%, with many students not suitably prepared for tertiary education.

Sean Jones
Sean Jones

The solution to this dilemma, in his view, is for youth to consider a career as an artisan, as there is quicker access to full-time employment – with apprentices often getting an apprenticeship with a company in their first year. This means they can also start earning money far sooner.

“A 50% failure rate at university is far too high, meaning many students are out of their depth. If they opt, instead, to enrol for artisan training they will get an apprentice placement with an employer literally from the time of enrolment and earn a stipend, from the employer, from their first year of training," said Jones.

He said frequently, students will study at university for three to four years and, upon graduation, many struggle to obtain gainful employment.

"Graduates in most cases earn rock bottom salaries as there is an oversupply of their skill and knowledge offering. Many, with degrees who are not absorbed into large corporate companies, end up working as waiters or waitresses, or other semi-skilled jobs such as sales assistants or in security for example," he explained.

"Artisans, however, are almost guaranteed formal employment and, upon graduation can earn R20 000 to R25 000 per month. That’s more than most university graduates will earn."

He pointed out that the economy desperately needs these mid-level skills and, therefore, artisans are a vital cog of the economy.

Additionally, becoming an artisan – whether it is as a nurse, baker, electrician, diesel mechanic or tractor technician for example - is a springboard, in his view, to other careers in engineering, sales, training, management or entrepreneurship.

Jones said it is a pity that many families eschew the vocational training option, as there is a far greater need for artisans than university graduates.

"The irony is that many jobs in the corporate world will simply disappear in the very near future. But there will always be jobs for artisans," said Jones.

“Mechanisation coupled with smart production technologies is on the increase. This will lead to a plunge in semi-skilled jobs. It goes deeper than that as innovators are constantly coming out with disruptive technologies including aps, 3D printing solutions, robotics, and nanotechnology as examples, eliminating many occupations."

He gave Uber as an example of how the market place can be disrupted the marketplace. Many 3D printing companies have also disrupted or enhanced traditional manufacturing companies.

“In the near future many occupations will no longer exist – but artisans are the bedrock of the economy and will always be needed," he said.

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