A case study on accelerating the production of artisans in support of inclusive economic growth in South Africa (Helen Brown)

The Manufacturing and Engineering Sector Education and Training Authority (merSETA) Accelerated Artisan Training Programme (AATP) has impacted positively on alleviating the acute shortage of artisans in support of economic growth in South Africa. The programme was conceptualised in 2004 by the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA), a national employer federation representing the metal and engineering industry. In 2007, the merSETA assumed responsibility for the programme and launched the programme pilot on 1 June of the same year in Johannesburg.

merSETA’s AATP proved that it is possible to train and qualify junior artisans in the automotive and metal industries within a period of between 22 and 36 months when: (1) entry-level qualifications are increased to include mathematics and science subjects at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 4, (2) institutional training (i.e. theory and simulated practical) against the training schedule for the trade is completed before entry into the workplace to support a ‘work-ready’ apprentice for the employer, (3) monitoring of workplace exposure, coaching/mentoring against the training schedule is increased in frequency on a peer group support system between employers for purposes of sharing best practice, (4) the trade test remains the benchmark of competency, (5) a ‘ring-fence’ approach is implemented to ensure funds and resources are exclusively dedicated to the programme; and (6) training is linked to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) research (AATP Final Project Closure Report 2014).

Between 1 June 2007 and 31 March 2014, the AATP produced 3 355 fully qualified artisans in the automotive and metal trades, with a further 1 702 candidates expected to qualify by 2016. This activity stimulated the national system of training apprentices to the level where just over 10 000 apprentices were registered in the manufacturing sector from 2010 onwards. The success of the programme can be empirically measured through the results of the Tracer Study conducted in 2012. AATP candidates achieved a 71% first trade test pass rate (merSETA Tracer Study, 2012) whereas the control group of traditional four-year apprenticeships achieved a 66% first trade test pass rate. The study also found that 80% of AATP apprentices were employed after completing the trade test. This figure was similar to that of the control group (merSETA Tracer Study 2012).

Employers who had been involved in the AATP pilot confirmed that ‘accelerated’ artisans are productive on average two years earlier than artisans produced through the traditional South African four-year apprenticeship. Employers found the ‘accelerated’ artisans competent to build productivity and start contributing to company profitability.

Given its shorter training period, the high quality of the artisans it produces and the effectiveness of the practice model, the AATP can possibly be successfully replicated to alleviate artisan shortages that are hampering economic growth in South Africa, as well as other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The study concludes that the AATP has the potential to help improve the future prospects of individuals (apprentices) and the prospects of the communities and of the countries in which they live.

The full case study is available at the merSETA knowledge repository: http://www.merseta.org.za/Knowledgerepository.aspx

Helen Brown is a Senior Manager: Project Development at Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services SETA.


For further information contact Helen Brown at hbrown@merseta.org.za