Peter Giliam spoke to industry stakeholders at a boatbuilding sector engagement last week

Catamaran producer Robertson & Caine says a critical skills shortage in the South African boatbuilding sector is threatening the future viability of its massive Cape Town facility.

R&C managing director Peter Giliam issued a ‘cry for help’ to industry stakeholders at a boatbuilding ‘sector engagement’ last week organised by the Cape Town City Council. He said urgent intervention was needed to increase both the number of skilled artisans and the level of skills training in the South African marketplace.

“We want to grow and want to stay in Cape Town, but we need to develop skills,” Giliam told industry stakeholders at the meeting. “We are looking for people outside [the company] but we can’t find the skills.

“This is really a cry for help. We don’t have time to hang around.

“We need to start thinking [in South Africa] like an international industry not a local industry. We need to move forward please,” Giliam said.

R&C is South Africa’s largest producer and a vital component of Cape Town’s boatbuilding hub.

Responding to Giliam, City of Cape Town officials said they were committed to help resolve the skills crisis in partnership with industry players. Lance Greyling, City of Cape Town director of enterprise and investment, said training needed to be linked to mentorship programmes and job opportunities. He also called on national government, in particular the Department of Home Affairs, to address a bottleneck in work visa applications that prevented companies employing much-needed skilled foreigners.

SABBEX executive head Vanessa Davidson said more bursaries were needed to drive skills training and the industry’s socio-economic transformation agenda. “We need to get beyond just talking about the problem,” Davidson said.