The urgency of growing jobs through suitable skills development and entrepreneurial opportunities topped the agenda at the Forward Thinking for Maritime Education and Training Excellence conference hosted by the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI) in Durban today (Monday, 14 October). The event was hosted in partnership with AMSOL, the John Langalibalele Dube Institute, the eThekwini Maritime Cluster, eThekwini Municipality, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and the Moses Kotane Institute.
Operation Phakisa (meaning ‘hurry up’ in Sesotho) was launched in 2014, drawing from the concept of Malaysia’s Big Fast Results Methodology. It is a results-driven multi-sector approach to growing the blue economy – with a target to create 1 million jobs and contribute up to R177-billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2033.
Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation: Head of Operation Phakisa Mpumzi Bonga said while in the past five years the maritime economy significantly raised its contribution to GDP to R41.1-billion in investments, just less than 10 000 jobs were created. In line with the 2033 targets set by Operation Phakisa, jobs growth by now should have been 77 000 and the contribution to GDP should have been R32-billion.
“We have surpassed the GDP contribution target, but we have not created the desired number of direct jobs – even taking indirect jobs into account, we have not met our target. We need to sober up as we plan for the skills development we need to grow the oceans economy,” said Bonga.
He encouraged roleplayers in all six of the key sectors of Operation Phakisa to change their attitude to “business unusual” to grow the oceans economy in a speedy manner. This can be achieved through collaboration with the private sector to plan together as a nation, and investing in critical human capital for greater growth and success, he said.
“We do not have the luxury of time since our biggest shareholder, South Africans, are becoming impatient. There is no room for mistakes as South Africans need skills to change their material conditions,” said Bonga.
SAIMI Advisory Board chair Prof Sibongile Muthwa said the intention of the conference was to advance maritime skills development in South Africa by seeking input from delegates on their challenges in training sufficient artisans, identifying blockages and building maritime skills capacity. She also emphasised the importance of collaborative models inclusive of government role players.
Muthwa introduced the Oceans Economy Skills Development Assessment for South Africa study, which was conducted by SAIMI to determine the capacity of education and training institutions to deliver the forecasted skills needed to support maritime economic growth.
“A key finding of that study was that our post-school education institutions are producing graduates with maritime-related qualifications in sufficient numbers, however, the types of skills being produced are not in alignment with market needs. This requires not just a shift in the types of qualifications being offered or the content of curricula, but also shifts at policy and regulatory level to ensure that institutions have the capacity in terms of people, facilities and equipment to deliver the needed skills,” said Muthwa.
Economist Derek Zimmerman, who conducted the study on behalf of SAIMI, said there was a nett gap of 3 786 graduates needed per year despite an oversupply in certain sectors.
“Areas that are more operational at the moment have a surplus of skilled people. The supply that is being generated in that sector, in fact, is too many for the demand. And then there is an undersupply on the more technical skills side including the trade and professional categories. So, this is the mismatch and we need to get that balance right,” said Zimmerman.
National Skills Fund (NSF) Chief Director of Skills Development Implementation, Eubert Mashabane, said there are a huge number of unemployed youth in South Africa, who are looking for jobs but have no skills whatsoever. The oceans economy was identified by government as one of 14 key sectors with the potential to unlock jobs and ignite the economy for a growth trajectory, he said. “We need to start delivering on the promises made to the youth by growing jobs in the sector,” said Mashabane.
SAIMI Senior Manager for Operation Phakisa Skills Initiatives, Nwabisa Matoti, highlighted some of the progress made with interventions spearheaded by SAIMI in the focus areas of aquaculture, maritime transport, manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, coastal and marine tourism, small harbour development and marine protection and ocean governance.
Working groups, representative of relevant roleplayers in the focus areas, are in various stages of conducting and finalising skills audits to determine the skills requirements needed over the next 5 to 20 years, as well as current supply and demands for growing the blue economy, said Matoti.