According to the Framework for Identifying and Monitoring Scarce and Critical Skills [DHET, 2005, p.7], critical skills refer to particular capabilities needed within an occupation, for example, general management skills, communication and customer handling skills, teamwork skills, problem solving [cognitive skills], communication [e.g., language and literacy skills] and technology skills. Scarce skills are addressed by equipping people with registered qualifications on the national qualifications framework (NQF) such as degrees, diplomas or certificates or part qualifications, while critical skills can be acquired through registered part-qualifications or nonregistered short courses which can include individual modules within a qualification.
Many analysts regard poor skills levels as the most important because of South Africa’s high unemployment rate. One explanation frequently offered for South Africa’s high levels of unemployment is the shortage of skills. While it is important to address the very low skills levels among the unemployed, it is equally important to increase the country’s supply of skilled people (CDE Report, 2011). Research has shown that South Africa needs skilled immigrants, and the immigration of skilled people has improved in the past five years.