The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the economy with most sectors experiencing significant contraction in 2020. However, agriculture bucked the trend and exhibited respectable growth despite the pandemic’s effect on exports and labour. This bodes well for the sector, which has linkages to the entire economy and, according to the National Development Plan Vision 2030, has the potential to create close to one million new jobs by 2030. Indeed, farming is a key occupation, with an estimated 8,5 million people directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their employment and income.
However, for the NDP projection to be realised, there must be strategic, targeted investment in rural development nodes to eradicate the shortfalls in infrastructure, irrigation, electricity, telecommunications, transportation, training and skills development. Improving training and skills development includes expanding artisanal skills-related support services to ensure the ongoing sustainability of operations.
Sector priority artisan trades with good employment prospects include mechanical fitters, millwrights, diesel mechanics, electricians and operators – all training qualifications offered at False Bay TVET College.
Due to the designation and establishment of a Centre of Specialisation for Mechanical Fitting at False Bay TVET College, AgriSETA – the Agriculture Sector Education and Training Authority – has signed its first Memorandum of Understanding with the College to provide skills training in the form of a three-year learnership for 10 unemployed youths.
AgriSETA was motivated to invest in sector auxiliary services and sought to align with False Bay TVET College as it is an established, top-performing TVET college in South Africa. The College offers vocational, occupational and skills training programmes that provide students with scarce and critical skills and practical experience in courses that meet the challenges of the agri-sector, a national priority and therefore a TVET college imperative.
The government has compiled a new list of critical skills, which includes a number of mechanical-related trades ranging from NQF Level 4 to Bachelor’s NQF Level 8. The development of job-related skills is, therefore, not only part of the TVET college sector’s purpose but is seen as part of a multi-pronged national strategy to encourage and sustain overall, inclusive economic growth. With this strategy in mind, False Bay TVET College has forged ties with several SETAs aligned to priority sectors with good employment prospects.
In announcing seven priorities that will fast-track South Africa’s path to prosperity, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the focus will be on:
- Economic transformation and job creation;
- Education, skills and health;
- Consolidating the social wage through reliable and quality basic services;
- Spatial integration, human settlements and local government;
- Social cohesion and safe communities;
- A capable, ethical and developmental state; and
- A better Africa and world.
Successful land reform, job creation and rising agricultural production will contribute to the development of an inclusive rural economy. The President also committed the government to several key interventions, including a plan to expand the agriculture and agri-processing sector by supporting key value chains and products, developing new markets and reducing reliance on agricultural imports.
Many youth still consider the agricultural sector to consist of low status, low-paying jobs with few future prospects of advancement, whereas quite the opposite is true when they are equipped with the necessary qualifications.