South Africa has lost an opportunity to generate technical jobs for South Africans during the World Cup and the SA Roadies Association puts the blame on the government.

Roadies or the road crew are the technicians such as sound and lighting engineers who travel with a touring band and handle concert production.

Freddie Nyathela, the president of the South African Roadies Association (Sara), said yesterday (16 February 2010): "We have been having a battle with the Department of Arts and Culture in getting funding for Sara."

Sara is a not-for-profit organisation that trains people in technical skills such as in audio, lighting, staging and as video technicians. Since 1997 Sara has trained 2 000 people of which about 1 000 now have permanent employment.

But Nyathela said if the R1.7 million promised in July by the department had been forthcoming more people could have been trained in the skills needed for events hosted during the World Cup. "We don't have sufficient skills in South Africa for the World Cup. These skills will be imported."

The department had not responded for comment at the time of going to press.

Ofer Lapid, the managing director of Gearhouse South Africa, the largest technical and events company in the country, said the government could do more to upgrade skills and standards in the industry. Such a qualification system should include health and safety issues.

We have people building stages and structures who do not have formal qualifications," said Lapid. "Every week or month there is an Indaba that are often held in marquees, which are not usually safe structures.

"The government needs to invest more in the industry."

Lapid estimates about 8 000 to 10 000 technicians in South Africa. Gearhouse employs 350 permanent staff and in a good year provides work for a further 500 freelancers. It is currently training 40 people in electrical, sound, structures and safety skills to become junior technicians.

Helena Spring, the head of production at film company Videovision Entertainment, said from a producer's point of view there was fantastic talent in South Africa, but the depth of talent was not that big so if there were a few productions under way simultaneously it was difficult to get highly skilled technical staff.

Nyathela also criticised the government for not driving transformation in the industry through a black economic empowerment charter.

He added that it was difficult for black people to get meaningful positions in the industry and most were relegated to carrying equipment.

Source: article by Samantha Enslin-Payne, Business Report, 17 February 2010