by Phumzile Mnconywa

The year of the artisan

Skills development has become a universal lever

Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi: Chairperson of BHP Billiton SA
Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi

Skills development will make or break the South African economy. This message is being broadcast loud and clear from every sector, with terms such as competitivity, sustainability, transformation, growth – skills development is the universal lever for them all.

As confirmed by Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, chairperson of BHP Billiton SA: "South Africa has never been better placed to take advantage of its natural and human assets. Paradoxically, the skills development neglect of the past has created the skills development opportunity for the future.”

"It's very fitting," adds BHP Billiton Skills Development Summit director Phumzile Mnconywa, "that 2013 has been dubbed the Year of the Artisan. For it is the artisans of this country who will carry it into a prosperous future. It is the artisans who will build the roads, lay the tracks, construct the power stations and manufacture the original equipment necessary for South Africa to reclaim its birthright.

"Unfortunately, most of these artisans do not yet exist: a massive skills development input is needed from all quarters."

Fortunately, there is no lack of funding. The public sector alone has pledged the funds necessary to turn South Africa into a vast construction site. Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan confirms: “Over the next three years, R827 billion is planned to be spent by the fiscus and state-owned companies to build infrastructure. The financing for these projects is in place, and is not affected by the spending cuts in the budget.”

Yet, these vast resources will come to nothing without aggressive skills development strategies to bring the workers of South Africa into their own. Of course, this entails bringing the rest of the human resources value chain into the picture: for the South African workforce requires transformation as an integrated whole.

With so much at stake, from mining to manufacturing, from construction to conservation, the 2013 BHP Billiton Skills Development Summit is the premier forum for everything related to skills development to be put on the table. Stakeholders and actors in every shade of the skills development spectrum are coming together on 6 and 7 August at the CSIR Convention Centre to report back on the year's developments, table new issues, and thrash out the controversies in a spirit of engagement and innovation.

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