The inaugural High Gear Quarterly Skills survey conducted by NAACAM on the existing and likely future skills gaps has revealed that the automotive component sector faces a range of skills gaps across all occupational levels.

The survey was administered by NAACAM, the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers, which has a membership base that spans production locations, tiers, sub-sectors, sizes and ownership structures across South Africa. The quarterly survey is supported by the High Gear initiative funders: the UK Government’s Skills for Prosperity Programme, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

“The purpose of the quarterly survey is to accurately identify which skills and occupations currently, and potentially in the future, present the largest risk to the sustainability of the industry,” explained NAACAM Executive Director, Renai Moothilal.

Over 70% of respondents said they faced skills gaps within ‘artisan’ and ‘leadership’ occupational levels. The most pressing current and potential future skills gaps related to digital, complex problem solving and technical skills.

The survey indicated varying degrees of confidence in TVET colleges and their learning outcomes. Respondents were more confident in Universities of Technology than TVET colleges. Noting this finding, High Gear’s implementation plan will include an intensive focus on capacitating TVET colleges to align with industry’s skills requirements, improve course delivery, and generate improved learning and employment outcomes for young people. Nearly 70% of respondents suggested that focus should be placed on improving technical skills of graduates, supported by the adoption dual-vocational training that combines theoretical and practical training

The survey also indicated that the interventions need to be continuously reviewed to ensure they are robustly aligned to the requirements of the industry and create a strong pipeline of high-quality graduates, thereby ensuring the stability of the automotive component supply chain. The survey yielded several key recommendations from component manufacturers including:
• Lecturers need to be empowered through continuous learning and workplace exposure to ensure students are well-equipped to tackle the challenges of the industry
• Reform needs to focus on both improving the technical and soft skills students acquire during their studies and ensure these skills are aligned to industry
• Students need to be taught technical skills relating to new technologies and new manufacturing processes, as well as soft skills such as creativity and critical thinking. These skills need to be aligned with industry and QCTOs.

“This holistic approach will ensure lecturers are up to date with best practices, students have sound technical and soft skills, and the industry has a secure pipeline of quality graduates to ensure the sustainability of the supply chain,” explained Moothilal.

To this end, High Gear is taking the following steps to create a demand-driven TVET system
that offers quality courses that are aligned with industry:
1. Design industry-validated TVET course upgrades
2. Equip TVET lecturers to deliver upgraded courses
3. Facilitate workplace exposure for both TVET lecturers and students
4. Creation of a ‘career experience platform’ to provide students with sound career guidance regarding jobs in the industry