Education and skills development are major challenges in South Africa. Making education accessible and affordable is a burning point and having skilled labour in the work place, is a daily test. But is the dream of higher education and a better future actually getting in the way of having a job?
What has happened to small family businesses and craftsmanship? In a commercially driven environment with low margin mass production at heart, craftsmanship is a dying concept. Of course there are the luxury brands crafted to special designs and made in limited quantities, but where is the local shoemaker, carpenter or builder?
Craftsmanship seems to be slowly dying with the dream of degrees, professional titles and fancy city jobs. We all want a better future for our children and especially in South Africa, we dream that the next generation will have more opportunities and financial success. I wholeheartedly agree that this dream should be within reach for everyone, but this does not mean that it is the only solution we have.
Craftsmanship and family businesses can perhaps be a solution. South Africa has many small, rural towns and communities and local craftsmen can be to the benefit of all. Finding affordable, quality services and products in rural areas is a challenge, as is finding a job. Keeping families together with a proper family structure is another challenge we have. Providers work far from home, leaving single-parent families and all the accompanying challenges. More than economic provision, family businesses can also bring a sense of achievement, pride and belonging.
A the heart of the family businesses, is mentorship from parent to child when it comes to the skills of the trade, but younger generations can also make a contribution. Technology is not the enemy of craftsmanship, it is an important part of a successful business in today’s world. With younger generations being technology-savvy, they can bring this valuable skill to the family concern.
“Efficiency with technology” is also the Nampo 2018 theme. Jannie de Villiers, CEO of Grain SA, the organisers of the biggest agricultural exhibition in South Africa, is quoted on grainsa.co.za: “South Africa’s agricultural producers’ openness to new technology is one of the main reasons why the country can claim to provide sustainable food production.”
The success of commercial farming enterprises is supported by older generations sharing the skills and insights of the trade, while younger generations contribute the knowledge of technology. This principle applies to smaller businesses. Together, entrepreneurship, technology and craftsmanship or skill can be a powerful entity for job creation in South Africa. We see its success in farming, but it can be widely applied.
There is of course more to it than getting the family together and opening a hair salon, bakery or plumbing business, but the concept has merit. It is something the Department of Trade and Industry should encourage, stimulate and support and it might just result in benefits for the Department of Social Services as well.