Understanding artisanal training in South Africa (Angelique Wildschut)

Artisan training and development has been identified as a critical area to address the challenges of economic growth and redress, and provide an avenue to address the growing youth unemployment challenge in South Africa. However, the artisan system continues to bear the historical scars of race and gender discrimination. The Labour Market Intelligence Partnership (LMIP) has undertaken new research into key historical events in the evolution of the system, as well as a macroeconomic analysis of the shifts and shape of artisan skilling and employment over the last few decades. A Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report titled, ‘Towards understanding the distinctive nature of artisan training: Implications for skills planning’, aims to identify implications for artisan development in South Africa. The report contributes to our understanding of the artisan system in three distinct ways:

  1. It brings a historical lens to bear, going back to the 17th century to trace the specific trajectory of artisan skilling since the colonial period. The analysis illustrates the relationship between artisan skills production and the country’s economic growth path. It maps how systematic racial exclusion in the political context and a discourse about skills shortages in the labour market, have been important historical drivers of the nature of artisan skills production.
  2. It considers the distinctive features of artisan training in South Africa, highlighting the depth and extent of a largely negative discourse about vocational education and training.
  3. The future of artisan skills production has to take shifting sectoral and employment trends in the economic structure into account. In particular, shifts away from employment in the primary and secondary sectors, and a shift towards employment in the informal economy, are critical contextual realities for artisan skills planning in the present and future.

The report is available at: http://www.lmip.org.za/sites/default/files/documentfiles/HSRC%20LMIP%20Report%202%20Web_0.pdf

Dr Angelique Wildschut is a Senior Research Specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and leads the LMIP research theme on ‘Artisanal Milieux and Identities’.

For further information contact Dr Angelique Wildschut at awildschut@hsrc.ac.za