Ambitious targets for scarce skills lauded

Johannesburg – South African universities have put forward bullish targets to absorb students studying scarce skills.

Data from universities show that the targets for first-time students entering into the scarce skill areas of engineering, life and physical science, human health, animal health and veterinary sciences and teacher education are gradually increasing.

The life and physical science sector targets are 17 161 students this year, rising to 17 584 next year. Medicine targets are 10 155 this year, 10 418 next year and 11 516 in 2025.

Animal and veterinary science targets are 1 154 (2021), 1 194 (2022), 1 209 (2023), 1 229 (2024) and 1 257 (2025). Teacher education targets are 22 752 (2020), 22 746 (2021), 22 788 (2022), 22 855 (2023), 22 951 (2024) and 23 380 (2025).

Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, welcomed the targets set by universities in response to scarce skills enrolment plans.

However, he quickly added that a lot more still needs to be done on this score as these targets are an important step forward towards the goals of skilling people and the country.

“Since the introduction of the performance monitoring and evaluation system in 2010 and the subsequent medium-term strategic framework, the department has been engaging with universities through enrolment planning on their targets for the scarce skills area,” said Nzimande.

The department last year gazetted the 2020 national list of occupations in high demand.

The list of 345 high-demand occupations is issued to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and community colleges, and universities to ensure that they are training South Africans in the right skills.

It includes a wide range of medicine-related fields, engineering and ICT skills.

Nzimande said that 770 apprentices are being trained at 26 centres of specialisation at different TVET colleges in 13 priority trades with 130 participating employers.

He added that a further 1 000 young people are expected to start as apprentices this year.

“In response to the president’s State of the Nation Address, sector education and training authorities [SETAs] have set targets to respond to the national skills development plan and contribute to the postschool education and training system. Among others, the four SETAs that are involved with artisanal and engineering interventions have set targets for the medium-term strategic framework,” the minister said.

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