According to Marisa Jacobs, Managing Director of Xpatweb, certain artisan skills have been left off the recently gazetted draft Critical Skills List.

“This should be cause for concern for affected organisations and we encourage them to review the list urgently,” she says.

The Department of Home Affairs called for public comment in the gazette and employers have until 16h00 on 31 March 2021 to submit their suggestions.

Which artisans?

Dr Innocent Sirovha, CEO of the Agricultural Sector Education and Training Authority (AgriSETA), says all necessary critical and scarce skills have been included on the draft List.

However, Sumaya Hoosen, Human Capital & Skills Development Executive at the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA), confirms that several import skills have been omitted. “In the artisan field, boilermakers and millwrights are in short supply,” he says.

Referring to Xpatweb’s own Critical Skills Survey, Jacobs points to the artisan skills that respondents indicated as scarce but essential to their operations. They include millwright, electrician, fitter and turner, instrumentation specialist artisan, automation specialist, and refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanic. “Of these, only fitter and turner is included in the draft List,” she says.

Preliminary results from the firm’s latest survey show that 7 percent of employers struggle to recruit such artisans. They operate predominantly in the mining, construction, and production and manufacturing industries.

Education and experience

An interesting note from the Department of Higher Education and Training’s full technical report explains why mechanical fitter, electrician and millwright, although critical, were discarded from the list.

It says that these occupations “were described as having a large number of qualified yet unemployed South African citizens who were not finding job placements. For this reason, there is sufficient evidence to exclude these occupations from the finalised CSL.”

Although this is true, employers need artisans with a level of education and experience not easily sourced locally.

66 percent of respondents to Xpatweb’s survey seek diploma level education or higher. In terms of experience, 23 percent require a minimum of one year experience, 30 percent require three to five years experience and a massive 43 percent require five or more years experience.

Encouraging feedback, 81% of these employers reported that succession planning and the transfer of foreign skills to local artisans is a high priority for their business.

“Employers indeed want local artisans but they need good experience to ensure project integrity is maintained,” says Jacobs.

Expiring visas

Jacobs also points out that certain foreign artisans currently in South Africa under a critical skills visa will not be able to renew that visa when it expires if their skill is not on the finalised List.

This means their employers could possibly lose an essential resource for their business where they are not able to sufficiently motivate for a visa renewal, which in turn means they will also have to go through a lengthy process to replace them.

“Importing skills not on the CSL takes several months longer and for some employers, this can impact their operations significantly,” says Jacobs.

This is yet another reason why they should submit their comments before the quickly approaching deadline.

Jacobs also urges employers to participate in Xpatweb’s Critical Skills Survey, which was the only private sector data used as input for the Critical Skills List. “Employers can benefit immensely from the industry-wide insights our results provide and their influence on initiatives like the CSL,” she concludes.


Marisa Jacobs

Marisa Jacobs