Gauteng Business News

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WORKFORCE: Skilled Trades Shortage Could Stall Future Economic Growth


Recent Gauteng Business News

Manpower South Africa advises that unless businesses, governments and trade associations work together to develop long-term strategies to alleviate talent shortages among skilled trades, economic growth will suffer. Worldwide, skilled trades positions are the hardest to fill, according to Manpower Inc’s recent global Talent Shortage Survey of 35 000 employers across 36 countries and territories.

Shortages of skilled workers are acute in many of the world’s largest economies, including the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Brazil, where employers ranked skilled trades as their number one or number two hiring challenge, according to Manpower’s Talent Shortage Survey. Here in South Africa, employers are also struggling to find skilled trades workers, as this position is ranked as the most difficult position to fill.

In a new World of Work Insight Paper titled: “Strategic Migration – a Short-Term Solution to the Skilled Trades Shortage, Manpower suggests that as the global economy recovers from recession, strategic migration policies are necessary in order to create a mobile workforce and plug the gap of skilled workers.

“The lack of skilled blue-collar workers can impede the progress of infrastructure projects and jeopardise national growth. It’s a problem that we must address for the long-term to foster economic health and fuel business growth. In the meantime, increasing the mobility of these workers can help ease the shortage,” said Peter Winn, Manpower South Africa Managing Director.

Strategic Migration calls for long-term, collaborative strategies to alleviate shortages of skilled workers. This includes promoting positive attitudes towards skilled trades, and ensuring that the technical training workers receive reflects the current demands of industry. Although migration can provide an immediate solution, these domestic policies should take priority to shape an indigenous workforce for the long term.

“Inadequate training and myths relating to skilled trades are creating a dangerous shortage of skilled workers. Employers and governments need to bring honour back to the skilled trades and ensure that South African skilled workers have the necessary technical and ‘soft’ skills to plug the shortage. While our economy recovers from the recession, providing training programmes and working to promote skilled trades as a viable career choice could open up these jobs to a wider talent pool. This will alleviate unemployment as well as help businesses manage their needs effectively,” added Winn.

According to a survey by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), fewer than one in three 15-year-olds in Germany and the Czech Republic see themselves in a high-skilled blue-collar job by the age of 30. The figure is even lower in Italy, the US and Japan.

Long-Term Approach
There are various approaches that may be valuable to alleviate the skills trade shortage in the long term, such as increasing the supply of workers with the right skills, or by enhancing their mobility. The key stakeholders should form effective partnerships to combat the lack of available talent. The four areas where these stakeholders should look to innovate are the following:
• Promote positive attitudes toward skilled work - An imperative for organisations who rely on skilled labour, is to find ways to emphasise the appeal of the work
• Align technical training with business needs - Business and trade associations should work more closely with technical education institutions to ensure that the curriculum is aligned with relevant skills and needs
• Develop international certifications to accelerate mobility - Ensure quality standards and safety among the various skilled trades areas with international certifications
• Use strategic migration policies alongside long-term domestic solutions - Immigration can be an important strategic tool in order to increase worker mobility (immigration law may be an easier lever to pull than international certifications)

A workforce that meets the needs of businesses in South Africa is vital to ensure that the country’s economy flourishes in the future. Addressing shortages with strategic migration in the short term and changing perceptions and training programmes in the long-term is the key to creating an environment which encourages infrastructure projects and national growth. While this insight paper discusses how appropriately flexible or strategic migration of skilled workers is key to plugging a significant portion of the talent gap, it goes far beyond that. The migrations constraints associated with talent mobility is an issue that affects all career fields and therefore impacts all countries. It will be one that governments around the world will need to collaborate with businesses, trade, academic and educational institutions, in order to fuel healthy economic growth and prosperity in the future.

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