Artisan training school fails to spend budget
A parastatal tasked with training unskilled and unemployed youngsters in Mpumalanga to be artisans has failed to spend R52 million of its budget, despite requesting more funds.
The Mpumalanga Regional Training Trust (MRTT) – a section 21 company in the Mpumalanga department of education – established the Mshiniwami Artisan Training Academy in conjunction with a private company, Hydra Arc, last year to produce and place 1 000 boilermakers and welders in the job market each year.
Hydra Arc specialises in pressure vessel and piping fabrication, construction, refinery maintenance, tooling and equipment in the petrochemical, mining, powergeneration and construction industries.
Hydra Arc was awarded a five-year tender to produce 5 000 artisans by 2019, but that may not happen, despite the MRTT having requested an additional R128 million in the 2015/16 financial year – but it failed to spend a big chunk of the money.
This means 40% of the artisan development budget could not be spent, despite the province’s youth unemployment rate, according to Stats SA, standing at 41%.
Only 329 students completed their institutional training in the last financial year, according to the department of education’s annual report. This is way below the target of producing 1 000 artisans a year.
DA legislature member Jane Sithole said the MRTT should use every opportunity to upskill the youth to boost the province’s economic growth.
“Unemployment in Mpumalanga is rife, especially among the youth. The MRTT is unable to fulfil its mandate. It cannot be acceptable that money meant to uplift young people out of poverty by providing them with much-needed skills is not spent for this purpose,” Sithole said.
Mpumalanga education spokesperson Jasper Zwane, however, said the artisan programme was on track and would meet its 2019 target.
“Every effort is being made to achieve the target of training 5 000 artisans by the end of 2019,” Zwane said.
“The training programme is continuing and taking place in different phases. Recruitments are being made as such funding allocated for this financial year will be used for the intended purpose. As an occupational trade, artisans were identified as a scarce and critical skill needed to grow the economy of the province,” he added.
The underexpenditure compounds other issues, including complaints from Mshiniwami students last year, which almost led to the institution being shut down. The training programme stopped for about three weeks due to students’ protests in August.
The students complained that they were not allocated the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority registration numbers, and also alleged that modules for the boilermakers were designed by the moderator of the welding course, that staff were not qualified and that when students were taken to Sasol for experiential training, they were forced to do jobs they were not trained for.
Zwane said the department was engaging with the students and other stakeholders to resolve the students’ complaints.