Germany’s economy is growing at a time when few others are. This is partly led by an export boom, which obviously can’t be the solution for the global economy. More than that though, they generally do have a productive labour force with high levels of physical and human capital.
South Africa previously had a very similar apprenticeship system. It was replaced with a Learnership Programme by the Skills Development Act of 1998. The Skills Levy and SETAs are enabled by that Act. A NQF FAQ explains the differences in this pdf.
Now there are views that the apprenticeship system is not sufficiently closely removed from indentured servitude, itself often a subtle different shade of slavery. Given South Africa’s history and background of labour and other practices, it doesn’t surprise me that a traditional apprenticeship system is viewed warily by policy makers. A more structured approach protecting apprentices from poor treatment or inadequate training from an individual employer is probably a good thing – as long as it is still effective in its core mission of providing employable skills.
It’s not clear that the SETAs have been at all successful here.
I think it’s fair to say that whatever system we had or now have, we need something better to adequately skill-up our labour-force, particularly new (non-university educated) entrants to the labour market. This is probably the single biggest drag on our economic growth and employment.
[Update: The Transport Education and Training Authority page suggests apprentice-like programmes do exist, but with more structured education than the old-style systems. Still the programmes obviously aren’t working well enough if there are so many unskilled workers without employment. Maybe we need to make it more attractive for “unemployable” citizens to be employed anyway, subsidised if need be, while they gain the skills necessary to become employable and contribute to society. I can’t stress how important this is for our economy and our country.]
[Update #2: An interesting take on some of the problems and challenges for SETAs]