The world is in the middle of a major energy and technological transition, with far-reaching implications across sectors and industries. This transition has accelerated on the back of an energy security crisis induced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is highly relevant for the coal-dependent South African economy, as it ranks among the most carbon-intensive in the world: it is the 13th highest emitter globally, and the highest in Africa.This will have to change as the world shifts towards green energy. The energy transition is accompanied by a technology revolution, with digital and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies shaking up entire industries.
Crucially, the move away from fossil-fuel based economies will lead to the demise of some industries, even as others emerge and grow. This will cause significant upheaval in the labour market. Managing this transition in a way that seeks the best possible outcome for workers and affected communities is important, but particularly in a country like South Africa, which is facing the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. South Africa currently has an unemployment rate of 35.3%. The country cannot afford to lose more jobs; in fact, it is crucial that more jobs are created. The just transition aims to mitigate this impact by providing ‘a hopeful and optimistic future for all workers, especially those in industries that may be impacted by efforts to limit greenhouse gases or by the introduction of new technology’. Tools to ensure that vulnerable stakeholders are not forgotten in the transition include policies to increase economic diversification in affected regions, provide opportunities for reskilling the workforce for future growth industries (as well as temporary income support during reskilling) and provide increased social welfare support.
This report, which has been co-developed by SAIIA and consortium partners, alongside the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and other government stakeholders, is framed within the just transition framework. It is interested in the role that skills development can play in the vocational skills development system, and in particular the TVET ecosystem in helping the country prepare for a skills and training just transition. Policy recommendations and strategic actions toward developing the desired GHE-TVET ecosystem are presented, targeted at various public and private stakeholders.