SA HR news roundup: Tuition-free university to address constrained students, pandemic destroys informal sector jobs

Automotive sector raises concern about an increase in hard-to-fill vacancies.

American online university plans to address “missing middle student demographic” and NIDS-CRAM data shows the pandemic's hard impact on informal sector jobs. Meanwhile, the mining sector continues to increase the vaccination curve and the automotive sector registers an increase in hard-to-fill vacancies.

Mining sector targets 80 percent vaccination rate by end-September
More than 120,000 mineworkers, or about 20 percent of the sector’s employees, have been vaccinated against Covid-19. This is according to the Minerals Council South Africa’s recent briefing to the portfolio committee on Mineral Resources and Energy. Collectively, the sector employs about 452,000 workers.

The committee further welcomed a commitment from the council to reach a vaccination target of 80 percent by the end of September, alongside welcoming the council’s commitment to make its unused health centres available as quarantine facilities.

Non-profit American university for South Africans
The University of the People, a non-profit, tuition-free, American-accredited online university, aims to assist the “missing middle student demographic” to overcome financial, geographic, political and personal constraints.

At UoPeople, students are provided with career preparation support, and classes comprise individuals from 20-30 different countries, allowing exposure to other cultures and ways of thinking.

There is a one-time application fee of approximately R880 and at the end of each course there is an assessment fee of about R1,800 for undergraduate courses and about R3,500 for graduate courses. Financial aid and scholarships are available. The university offers bachelor’s degrees in business administration, computer science, and health science as well as a master’s in education and an MBA.

Students can study from anywhere in the world, on any device – even a mobile phone. All learning materials and textbooks are Open Educational Resources (OER).

Pandemic drastically affected informal sector jobs
The University of Cape Town (UCT) Liberty Institute of Strategic Marketing has examined the impact on jobs and income across the economic spectrum, using data from the National Income Dynamic Study’s Coronavirus rapid mobile surveys (NIDS-CRAM).

By March this year, there were nearly 1.15-million fewer people earning from jobs paying under R3,500 a month. These figures suggest that the informal sector has been particularly badly hit by the pandemic, says UCT Liberty Institute of Strategic Marketing head of projects Dr James Lappeman.

It seems not only are there fewer South Africans earning higher salaries than pre-lockdown, but the average salary for those earning over R40,000 a month has fallen, the study shows.

HTF vacancies increase in automotive sector
High Gear’s second Quarterly Skills Survey, which is administered by National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM), shows that 90 percent of respondents have reported at least one occurrence of hard-to-fill (HTF) vacancies in the last six months.

The survey found that, while respondents anticipate changes to what the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority reports as critical occupations of the future, toolmakers are ranked as the top critical HTF occupation based on current vacancies in the sector, and respondents lamented that “it is likely that this will endure into the future”.