As part of government's Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA), a target of producing 2500 engineers per annum has been set to help the country deal with skills shortages.
"JIPSA has targeted a limited number of priority skills thought to be some of the key constraints to [economic] growth.
"The key ingredient to growth was going to be that as government we could invest in roads, electricity, water and housing, in order to increase the capacity of the economy ... in order to do all of that we need engineers," said chief economist within The Presidency, Alan Hirsch, Wednesday.
Speaking at a report-back briefing on JIPSA's activities for 2007/08, Mr Hirsch highlighted that at the beginning of this decade, the output of engineers from South Africa's education system was very low.
"By the time we got to 2007, the output of engineers had already increased to about 1 500 per annum from a low point of about 1 200 per annum at the beginning of the decade ... we want to take it up to 2 500 engineers per annum as soon as possible," said Mr Hirsch.
In addition to an amount of R48 million provided in 2006, government has committed approximately R439 million between 2007- 2009, towards improving teaching and learning infrastructure in the country.
Contained in the JIPSA 2007 report is that the following three strategies to increase the number of practicing engineers was introduced including an increase in the number of engineering graduates; a higher number of registered and practicing engineers and the retention and re-employment of retired engineers.
The Department of Home Affairs is currently involved in actively promoting South Africa as a destination for chemical, materials, civil, structural, and mining and quality engineers from abroad.
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka told reporters that since the establishment of JIPSA, the world has become a very different place, adding "there is a need now for us to up our game.
"We are aware that we are busy losing skills [through emigration], which has now made the work of JIPSA more tricky," said the deputy president.
The issue of foreign recruitment of specialised labour has become very important, she said, adding that the "Train the Trainer" project must also be prioritised in order to improve the quality of education in the country.
Ms Mlambo Ngcuka urged that "those learners dropping out of school before Grade 12, must go back to school, otherwise they are only swelling the ranks of the country's unemployed."
JIPSA was born out of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (Asgi-SA) which aims to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014 through accelerated shared Gross Domestic Product growth, rising to 6 percent in 2010. - BuaNews