Studying artisans in the manufacturing, engineering and related services sector
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Given extensive changes globally in the nature of training and employment of artisans over the last few decades, the manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (merSETA) commissioned the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to study changes in artisanal identity and status within the South African (SA) context. At its core, it was intended that the research should investigate qualitative dimensions of becoming and being an artisan generally, but specifically within the merSETA sector, through in-depth case studies of selected artisanal trades. In addition to this focus, merSETA requested a quantitative update of artisanal skills supply and demand in SA, to contextualise the sector-specific trends that would emerge from the case studies. The first step of the project engages conceptually to develop and propose an appropriate
research design and methodology to study changes in artisanal identity and status in the South African context. The next step lays a foundation for this research, by taking stock of artisanal skills supply and demand, using a quantitative lens. This aspect of the research describes analytically the size and nature of the artisanal population, in other words, the nature of artisanal skills supply and demand. This is an important step to contextualize and direct the qualitative case study research appropriately. Following this step, the research team conducted case studies of specific trades to interrogate what it means to be an artisan today and how this
might have changed over time. The investigation aims to address critical questions about shifting artisanal identity and status highlighted through the analysis of the labour market and skills system, but also reflects back on the strategic research questions underpinning the project. This report highlights the trends in artisanal skills supply and demand, and investigates how the
key shifts have impacted on changes in artisanal identity and status.