The government is on a mission to boost the allure and efficiency of technical and vocational education training (TVET) colleges, higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor says.
While the National Development Plan — which articulates the country’s vision to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 — envisages the college sector as crucial in tackling skills shortages, the sector is still hampered by a lack of funding and poor management.
Just last week, the umbrella body for TVET colleges, the SA College Principals’ Organisation (Sacpo), told parliament that some students waited more than 10 years for their certificates, which affected their search for employment.
In 2017, the Financial and Fiscal Commission said the historical underfunding of colleges, especially TVET colleges, was hurting SA’s skills development. Additional government funding of R7.2bn in 2018 was allocated to fund bursaries for students of poor and working-class families.
Another concern was that few TVET colleges had qualified teaching staff, or teachers with adequate technical skills.
Pandor, speaking at the annual International Vocational Education and Training Association conference in Cape Town on Monday, said making technical and vocational education training the "first choice" was a priority for the government.
"Our government has over the years developed the links between the different parts of the postschool training and education system [universities, TVETs and the sector education and training authorities, Setas] and between them and the world of work, in order to ensure that young people have better educational and economic opportunities and acquire the skills our businesses need."
Pandor emphasised the need to place technical and vocational education at the centre of the skills-development agenda.
"If we are to train the people we need for the 21st century economy and labour market, we must clarify our understanding of vocational education: what defines it, how we provide it, how we fund it, and how we ensure the quality of providing it." The minister said the inference that TVET is limited to just "simple, manual demonstrations of skill or competence has seriously dented its reputation and undervalued its worth".
At the heart of the challenges facing the TVET system is the "rupture that occurred between colleges and employers, a rupture that began with the introduction of ‘private students’ well before the dawn of our democracy in 1994", said Pandor.
"Since the [department of higher education and training] was established in 2009, the rupture between colleges and employers is being repaired."
The Setas were significant in making this happen and she thanked them for their work.