Key Points:

  • The shortage of skilled people in South Africa is one of the most pressing issues on the agendas of both business and government. The recruitment experiences of private sector companies and their perceptions of skills shortages are central to a proper understanding of this crucial issue.
  • For this reason, CDE undertook a survey among 40 firms to find out more about business and skills shortages. Nearly half (19) were in various kinds of manufacturing, and the rest were spread across mining, retail and services.
  • There were three main findings: the unintended consequences of transformation policies have increased pressure on an already limited pool of skills produced by our flawed education and training systems; SA is losing human capital to a global market for skills that has become increasingly competitive in recent years; SA’s immigration system is flawed in conception and in its capacity to deliver, and it is obstructing our ability to recruit the skilled people we need from abroad.
  • The implications for productivity, growth, and profits are far-reaching. In this light, CDE recommended the speedy restoration of the apprenticeship system, with necessary improvements, supported by urgently resourced technical colleges. As well as opening up immigration as the only short-term solution to the skills problem.
  • These research findings have important implications for government policies aimed at a ‘skills revolution’, and South Africa’s prospects of accelerated and shared growth: the skills shortage is not only the most difficult issue companies have to deal with, but also erodes the competitiveness of the South African economy.