This shows a recognition by the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Department of Home Affairs, that if we are to supplement the skills shortage in South Africa, we have to start at the point where education becomes a path into professional fields.
The Department has included FET (Further Education and Training) School teachers for grades 8 to 12 within the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). These obviously being the most prevalent of subjects, if we are to compare to the rest of the world and compete on par within the 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution).
Teaching future professionals:
It’s no surprise then that these aptitudes need to be synergised and bolstered with the teaching of relevant skills that are missing in South Africa. As such Nurse Educators and University Lecturers have also been included on the list. Whilst the teaching of the nursing profession is of obvious importance, the fields that would be ideally taught for the lecturing profession is further broken down in the Critical Skills Technical Report issued by the Department of Higher Education and Training. These fields will define which lecturers will be eligible for a Critical Skills Work Visa.
The fields that are being considered are:
- Accounting and Informatics
- Agricultural Environmental and Natural Sciences
- Arts – Design and Social Sciences
- Business Studies
- Management Sciences
- Engineering and the Built Environment
- Food Service Management
- Health Sciences
- Information and Communications Technology
- Medicine and Health Sciences.
- Public Management and Administration
One can quickly see where our government places importance in skills development. And while a few of these fields belong to occupations that are no longer on the Critical Skills List, it is evident that there is a big push being made for these professions to be taught and grown at home.
The speed of education might be a problem
With professionals such as Doctors, Public Health Management and Nurses being left off the list, one must wonder at the current supplement of such professions in South Africa; Are we able to accommodate for South Africa’s needs whilst these professions are being trained up? And if so, what is to stop them from leaving? The skills shortage exists for many reasons, ranging from better pay or prospects for professional skills abroad to security issues.
Furthermore, the government’s White Paper on Migration makes the important scrutinisation that the ratio between professionals leaving the country, versus professionals being sourced in South Africa via Immigration, is 8:1. A rather telling figure of how desperately South Africa requires professionals.
What will the future bring?
The inclusion of the teaching professions on the list is by no means a bad decision. And we can see that these were carefully chosen according to key areas where skills are missing in the country. But the problem from the beginning, at least in part, was not sourcing such professionals, but retaining them.
The Government will have to take careful steps in incentivising such professions for their specialist knowledge and skills, to give them reasons to stay. True, there are economic and political factors at play, that are difficult to change or even influence. However, retention will be the measure to which the success of the overall initiative will be measured.