Filling the Skills Shortage in the SA Engineering Industry

Making the top of the National Scarce Skills List of 2014 are “world-class engineering and planning skills” as well as “technical skills” related to infrastructure development, housing, and energy. There is clearly a definite need for engineers (and professionals with engineering skills) of all sorts across a range of South African industries. This scarcity of skills, however, also presents unskilled workers with a definite opportunity to fill the skills shortage.


Understanding the skills shortage

South Africa currently has one of the highest unemployment rates it has had in years. Yet, there are over 800,000 unfilled positions across South Africa’s numerous industries (according to the Adcorp Employment Index). But how can there be such a high unemployment rate while there are so many job vacancies, you might wonder?

The problem is that while there is an abundance of unemployed labourers in the country, too few of them actually have the skills that are in demand in the labour market. According to Manpower South Africa’s Talent Shortage Survey: in 2015, 31% of employers reported difficulty filling job vacancies in their companies. They gave a number of reasons for this:

  • Lack of candidate experience
  • Organisational factors
  • Lack of industry-specific qualifications and certifications
  • Lack of technical competencies
  • Lack of hard skills
  • Market factors

It is especially in engineering and related fields that this skills shortage occurs. “There is a dire shortage of engineers, technologists, technicians and artisans across a range of disciplines,” writes the DHET in their report.

Every problem presents an opportunity

There are countless jobs waiting for the right person with the right skills to show up. The skills shortage thus presents workers willing to develop new and necessary skills with a tremendous opportunity.

Manpower South Africa found in their survey that in response to skills shortages, 25% of employers said:

“they would appoint people who do not currently have the necessary skills, but have the potential to learn and grow.”


Earn a National Qualification

It is not as if you need to complete a three-year engineering degree to gain the skills you need. Engineering is a wide field that encompasses a number of professions across a number of industries. Moreover, the skills shortage exists not only in relation to engineering professionals, but also in relation to professional technicians and other people with engineering skills.  This might include:

  • Electrical Engineers
  • Field Service Technicians
  • Millwrights
  • Boilermakers
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Welders
  • Maintenance Mechanics
  • Heavy Machinery Mechanics

A National Qualification in Engineering Studies is a great way to gain the skills, training, and qualifications you need to qualify for these kinds of in-demand jobs. National Qualifications are skills-based programmes that aim to train you for specific technical work.

Earn a qualification while working 

A big problem facing unskilled labourers is that they do not have the time or money for full-time studies, even if their futures depend on it. This is why distance learning is such a valuable resource.

Distance learning allows you to:

  • Study while you work.
  • Pay for your course in manageable monthly instalments.
  • Study from home, from anywhere in South Africa.
  • Complete your course part-time, in your own time.

Distance learning is thus a great way to up-skill without having to make big sacrifices. In this context, Oxbridge Academy is a leading distance learning college that offers part-time Engineering Studies.

Use the skills development levy

Manpower South Africa also found in their survey that

“31% [of employers] said they would be providing additional training and development to existing staff, while a further 29% said they would focus on developing new skills. 28% of employers said they were focusing on enhancing existing skills in their businesses.”

Not only is this a great way for employers to invest in their own companies, but contributing to employee skills development is also a requirement in terms of the Skills Development Levy Act.

If you want to learn how to ask your employer to help you with paying for your studies, you can read: How to Ask Your Employer to Help Fund Your Education.

To find out more about studying your Engineering Course via distance learning, you can visit Oxbridge Academy’s website here.


  • Department of Higher Education and Training. Call for Comments on the National Scarce Skills List: Top 100 Occupations in Demand. Notice 380 of 2014. [online] Available at  this link (accessed 15 December 2015).
  • 2015 Talent Shortage Survey. [online] Available at this link (accessed 15 December 2015).

Already qualified in this field? Apply for one of the latest engineering jobs on Job Mail.

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1 Response

  1. ANWAR MOKWA says:


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