The skills shortage is always a topical subject. It is also complex because the diverse nature of our economy leads to many different points of view. So, in my next few correspondences, I’d like to share the views of the SAIMC on the draft 2021 Critical Skills List, as published for public comment by South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs in the Government Gazette/Staatskoerant, 18 February, 2021.
Given the current state of South Africa’s infrastructure, it is becoming apparent that, for a variety of reasons, the skills required to operate and maintain these structures have become severely depleted. The question then is whether the proposed Critical Skills List and associated Critical Skills Visa will be able to fill this void in our industries and utilities, particularly in relation to factory automation, process automation and mechatronic devices.
The SAIMC is qualified to comment in these areas as it has been instrumental in developing the Discipline Specific Training Guidelines (DSTG) for Mechatronics professionals together with Siemens, lecturers from North West University, Tshwane University of Technology and Nelson Mandela University, under the auspices of the Engineering Council of South Africa.
Professionals in the automation industry
One of our concerns regarding automation professionals is the distinction between skills and qualifications. In our industry (and others as well), simply having a qualification – in engineering for example – does not necessarily equip a person with the skills required to perform complex associated industry related tasks. Our view is that skill should be defined as a suitable qualification coupled with a relevant amount of industry-related experience.
By not contacting the SAIMC Supplier Advisory Council, the SAIMC Education and Training Advisory Council or the SAIMC End User Advisory Council, it is quite understandable that the methodologies used when researching the Critical Skills List miss the mark somewhat when it comes to defining specialists in the fields of factory automation, process automation and mechatronic devices.
While positions may be filled, this does not mean that the incumbents have the skills necessary to perform the work they have been appointed to do, for, as is evident in the unreliable power supply to the country, the lack of service delivery etc., people are being appointed to positions without first being equipped with the skills required to take on such responsibility.
Our standpoint within the SAIMC is that without a suitable skills-base in the fields mentioned above, the South African economy is in for a hard time competing against those countries who are already well ahead of us in relation to the digital technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
With this in mind, I will pick up the topic again in next month’s article with a more specific look at the critical skills required in manufacturing, which were not identified in the draft Critical Skills List.
Yours in automation,
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