This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority (Foodbev Seta) and the Southern African Stainless Steel Development Association (Sassda).
The skills gained during the learnership include trades such as boilermaking, welding and fitting.
In terms of the agreement, the FoodBev Seta will provide R60 000 for each apprentice taken on by Sassda member companies to gain on-the-job experience. The learner artisans will be beneficiaries of the Seta's R23-million National Skills Fund project to develop scarce and critical skills in the food and beverage manufacturing sector. They will be among 800 learners trained through learnerships and internships to prepare for career opportunities in areas identified as lacking skills.
"An undersupply of technical skills is hampering the growth of most business sectors and threatening to derail the country's plans for economic development," says Foodbev Seta CEO Ravin Deonarain. "The Setas have been tasked with furthering the objectives of the government's Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa) to ensure that the target growth of 6% is realised."
He adds that the company's recent study into skills gaps in the food sector revealed a severe shortage of artisans. The sector will be able to absorb at least 21 000 new employees by 2010, and, currently, there is a need for 1 500 fitters alone.
Sassda former MD Michael Campbell says, "This skills development opportunity should appeal to many of Sassda's members, especially the smaller companies with limited facilities and budgets to offer training above the N2 level."
Campbell adds that the alliance with the Foodbev Seta will allow the learners to gain an appreciation and understanding of the opportunities which stainless steel offers.
"The demand for stainless steel continues to grow as a result of the infrastructure boom taking place in South Africa. To meet this demand, it is essential that as an industry it is able to find ways to improve the skills base in the stainless steel sector. This alliance will go a significant way in meeting those needs while providing Sassda members with the assistance needed, as well as the learners with an insight into this industry," says Campbell.
The learners will be placed with Sassda members operating in the food and beverage environment. Each learnership will last for two years.
Since its inception in 2000, as one of 25 Setas mandated by the Department of Labour to facilitate skills development across the economy, the Foodbev Seta has contributed to the training of numerous individuals in its sector through learnerships, skills programmes, apprenticeships and other development programmes. In the last financial year, almost 2 000 unemployed learners and 1 300 employees entered Foodbev Seta learning programmes. A further 150 learners were assisted to gain work experience.
Deonarain reports that the Foodbev Seta has consistently exceeded most of its National Skills Development Strategy targets and, for the past three years, has been rated by the Department of Labour among the three top performing Setas.
"Stainless steel is the material of choice for food and beverage manufacturing plants, so the partnership with Sassda makes perfect sense. The Foodbev Seta is confident that these combined efforts will help to ease the scarce skills crisis," says Deonarain.