Learning a trade can open many doors for young people and deserves to be higher on the “what do I do after I leave” lists of both parents and learners. This is the view of Zizile Lushaba, Human Capital & Skills Development Executive at SEIFSA who believes that innovative, self-driven, self-starters, who are technical and enjoy solving problems and working with their hands make good candidates for artisan training, which can include becoming a welder, fitter and turner, boilermaker or pipe fitter.

At a time when the unemployment rate is close to 40% (39.2% in the first quarter of 2023), with the jobless rate among young South Africans as high as 61%, the focus on post-school education and training must be on being employable. 

Huge demand

Choosing a trade increases young people’s chances of being employed as there is huge demand for more artisans in all sectors of the economy and this is not only true of South Africa.

“Degree-based careers may pay better, but you have to be employed before getting paid. South Africa has many unemployed graduates which just goes to show that a degree does not always guarantee a job. Of interest, there are far fewer trained artisans languishing among the unemployed.

The emphasis on practical training makes newly qualified trades people infinitely more employable than university graduates,” Zizile asserts.

Better option

“Trades require the following three elements: theory, simulation (practical training) and experiential learning (on-the-job training). Experiential learning allows the learner to be exposed to the workplace sooner than university graduates, which provides the opportunity to learn from professionals who guide and mentor them.”

The trades also offer learners who may battle to achieve the marks needed to study at university an alternative and sometimes far better option than simply taking up whatever degree they may be accepted into. 


“University is theory intensive while a trade provides an opportunity for individuals who might not excel as much on theory but would be far better with hands-on, practical exposure and learning. Being employed as an apprentice and/or qualifying as an artisan also provides earlier earnings prospects, which is a big benefit for many South African families,” says Zizile. 

There are many colleges around the country where young people can learn a trade. The SEIFSA Training Centre in Benoni, Gauteng, for example, offers a full range of artisan training from welders to electricians. It has also kept up to date with the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Furthermore, the Centre offers skills such as robotics and 3D printing to meet industry demands and these skills are taught using e-learning, virtual reality and e-assessments. The Centre can train 250 people per day and offers apprenticeships in 10 trades.

Small business

Many artisans find that their practical skills and experience are perfectly suited to running their own small businesses, as Zizile says, these skills are useful in “day-to-day life for those who are looking to explore the entrepreneurial route.  One of the key ingredients for economic growth and competitiveness is the ability to attract skills which the economy needs.” 

Many young people and their parents, worry about how they can increase their chances of finding employment, especially with the unemployment rate being so high. Artisans are always in demand — from the most to the least developed economies — and this is unlikely to change in the near future.

How long does it typically take to learn a trade?


One Response

  1. About time – the fundamentals of Engineering and ANY other trade are learnt as an Apprentice (learner) making the tea and getting your hands dirty – as I did at Leyland Motors and later as a Graduate. Not everyone will achieve academically but can excel in a specialised craft – my welding was terrible. Those decisions taken years ago, to eliminate skills training (by pushing everyone into tertiary education) are coming back to haunt society – perhaps we will soon see common sense instead of such ‘economic speak’ non-sense.
    Technology is not all about a telephone!!

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