Department of Mineral resources promotes training and education programms for young workforce in mining sector.
Unemployment in South Africa is currently 26.7%, which equates to over 5.7 million people. This is the highest level since September 2005 and follows an increase in the first part of 2016.
Whilst the exact figures for the level of youth unemployment differ, in the second quarter of 2015 it was widely reported that approximately 50% of South Africa’s youth were unemployed. This high level of unemployment is a major concern for the government as it is contributing to increased levels of anxiety and social tension amongst the youth of South Africa. It has in fact recently been stated that reducing unemployment amongst the young has to be the primary objective for the government from a social, political and economic perspective.
Opportunities in the mining sector
At the recent Youth in Mining summit in Johannesburg, a number of key contributors talked about all the opportunities available to the youth of South Africa in the mining sector. Joel Raphela, the Deputy Director General of Mineral Regulations at the Department of Mineral resources said, “We continue to reach the youth through the departmental Learner Week Programmes, where we create mining awareness by organizing mine visits around the country. We also provide learnerships and internships to learners and graduates as part of bridging the work experience gap needed in the employment market,”.
Mintek, an independent research and development organization specializing in the extraction and processing of mining minerals, including any relevant technologies, have a number of diverse and numerous opportunities available, including prospects for those without any higher education qualifications such as jewelry making and pottery.
In 2015 Mintek trained 148 students, 36 of whom were later allocated positions across Africa, including learning skills in metal smelting and casting. Joel Raphela said: “Urban mining presents numerous opportunities for young people to use urban waste to manufacture saleable products, without necessarily having a higher education qualification. The glass bead manufacturing process is a great example of this. Mintek provides training in the crushing of glass bottle waste using particular techniques and turning the crushed glass into beads that are then used to make products such as household decoration items and costume jewellery,” he said.
Further opportunities have also been found for a number of young South Africans in other parts of the world, including a 2-year program in Italy where they learn how to cut and polish diamonds, and placements in Switzerland where they learn watchmaking skills. It is hoped that in the future these students will return to South Africa, bringing their new found skills with them and in turn boosting the countries watchmaking and gem cutting and polishing industries. When asked about the importance of this diverse range of initiatives, Joel Raphela said: “economic empowerment of young people is not an option but a national imperative”.