Ar­ti­san train­ing school fails to spend bud­get

CityPress - - Business - SIZWE SAMA YENDE busi­ness@city­press.co.za

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.

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