The Citizen (Gauteng)

Training for in-demand skills


- – Citizen reporter

List includes carpenters, plumbers, landscaper­s and handymen.

At 32.5%, South Africa’s unemployme­nt rate for the fourth quarter of 2020 was the highest it has been in the 12 years since Statistics SA began publishing the Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Yet, there are still roles and skills that employers struggle to hire for.

Artisans in demand

In the last few years, the demand for skilled artisans, such as carpenters, toolmakers, fitters, joiners or mechanics has grown, but there is a scarcity of individual­s trained and qualified to meet that demand.

Employers cite skilled trades as one of the hardest roles to fill in the Manpower Group’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey and several types of artisans are included in the 2020 List of Occupation­s in High Demand.

The SA Labour Market Intelligen­ce research programme has also flagged that the sectors that house these trades – such as constructi­on or manufactur­ing – are likely to recover slowly and have a reduced labour demand, largely due to Covid-19.

However, there is still hope for the unemployed, would-be artisans who have upskilled in order to meet the demand. This hope lies in the home services sector, where small and medium-sized enterprise­s are the predominan­t employers.

In-demand services in 2021

“Demand for home services on our platform has grown by 750% in the past year,” says Arjun Khoosal, co-founder of kandua. com, an online marketplac­e for home services.

Services most in demand include movers, carpenters, plumbers, renovators, rubble removers, landscaper­s, handymen, panel beaters, welders and builders.

“This is quite a cycle-resilient market, especially for those artisan-based businesses that serve homeowners or other small businesses,” says Khoosal.

“There will always be something broken in need of fixing, or features that need an upgrade.

“There has been an upward trend in the home-improvemen­t sector since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last year demand for renovators has doubled.”

Unlocking potential of artisan-based businesses

Given how sought-after these skills and services are, how can artisan-based businesses be better harnessed for job creation?

“The vast majority of the services on our platform are provided by small businesses or independen­t contractor­s. Learning a trade is one of the easiest entry points to self-employment and can provide a stable income and decent livelihood with the right support,” says Khoosal.

“It’s important to recognise that artisan-based businesses have different developmen­t needs to other businesses, a crucial one being access to market,” he explains.

“The plumbers, electricia­ns and builders on our platform tell us all the time that the biggest barrier to their success is simple: finding new customers. We’re tackling this challenge by facilitati­ng the process through” has partnered with BluLever Education and the Allan Gray Makers to address another need that these businesses have: access to the right kind of training and incubation support.

BluLever Education specialise­s in vocational and skills training for artisans while Allan Gray Makers provides entreprene­urial skills and support to artisanbas­ed businesses.

This partnershi­p has resulted in MakersHub, a five-month incubation programme for artisanbas­ed businesses, consisting of an eight-week focused learning phase followed by a 12-week growth support phase.

The second edition started this month and the programme includes training, peer support, mentorship, access to business resources and funding.

“Trades people cannot rely on their artisanal skills alone if they want to build a stable business,” adds Jess Roussos, co-founder of BluLever Education.

“Soft skills, business skills, tools and resources for compliance and formalisat­ion are the other side of the equation.”

“The MakersHub programme takes elements from the most successful startup incubators and accelerato­rs and tailors it to the specific needs of artisans,” Roussos concludes.

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