By Neo Semono

The current global economic crisis has had a negative impact on the skills and development sector resulting in the decline of training budgets, according to the Presidency.

“The recent downturn in the world economy has resulted in job losses, and often training budgets are the first to be slashed in times of economic recession, as companies seek to guard against job losses,” said Deputy Head of Policy Co-ordination and Advisory Services in the Presidency Alan Hirsch.

He was speaking at the release of the 2008 Annual Report of Government's Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa).

Mr Hirsch further said that there was a risk of a decline in investment in training and HR development in the immediate future.

However, he added that the country needed to continue to invest in human resources.

“When the economy recovers, companies will once again be unable to recruit suitably skilled people, unless we continue the momentum of Jipsa,” said Mr Hirsch, stressing that the economic downturn will not last forever.

Jipsa, which aims to develop the skills that are most urgently needed in the country, was launched in March 2006 in support of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA).

Although the global economic crisis is having a negative impact on Jipsa, it has made huge strides in 2008.

According to the annual report, by March 2008, a total 18 879 people had been registered for artisan training. This is against the background of Jipsa’s priority to train 50 000 artisans by 2010.

The report also found that last year’s matric results showed that there had “been a big change” in results for Maths and Science subjects.

With regard to engineers, the report found that the Department of Education was on track to meet the target of 2 000 engineers graduating from university in 2010.

This was in Jipsa’s target of increasing the annual output of engineers from 1 500 per year to 2500 per year.

It was also evident that young South Africans often had a negative perception of jobs in the agricultural sector, however, this was changing, according to Education Director General Duncan Hindle.

“Learners' attitudes are changing,” said Mr Hindle, adding that this was because of the introduction of gardens at various schools.

According to the report, South Africa will see a positive, systematic response to the development and acquisition of skills and the number of learners registering into artisan development and engineering programmes soon.

Last year, government announced that Jipsa would be incorporated into the Human Resource Development Strategy of South Africa (HRDSA), which would fall under the aegis of the education department this year.