There can be no radical economic transformation without investing in Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) colleges, Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday.
Nzimande was speaking at a conference on TVET curriculum responsiveness, in Johannesburg. He referred to serious resource constraints, including overcrowded lecture rooms and slow maintenance of equipment.
The white paper for post-school education and training proposes expanding enrolment at colleges from about 700,000 to 2.5-million by 2030, to ease pressure on universities.
"You cannot transform any economy without provision of quality skills," Nzimande said. "In SA, we need mid-level skills, most of which are offered at TVETs."
Her said the colleges needed to take advantage of the links with Sector Education Training Authorities set up to ensure the transfer of funds and skills. Due to funding constraints, TVET colleges are subsidised at 54% instead of 80%, which the minister labelled a "disaster".
Nzimande also lamented that the sporadic changes of finance ministers had caused hurdles for him as he had to lobby each minister and "just as they understand, another comes in — I’ve got to start again with Gigaba now".
The government wants colleges to become the cornerstone of higher learning and take over from universities in meeting industrial needs. The campus manager of Goldfields TVET college, Sidney Radile, said access to workshops and equipment was critical so students could be exposed to the kinds of skills required, along with opportunities to interact and share with each other.
"When you teach you want to link theory with the practical to create a balance" Radile said. He emphasised that whatever skills students received it was important to develop students who were employable. "The challenge is people are obsessed with completing the syllabus as opposed to having a holistic approach to learners."
While there was previously no qualification for TVET college lecturers, Nzimande said the department is working with 11 universities to introduce TVET lecturer qualifications.
The minimum set of competencies were highlighted at the conference as having specialised knowledge, sound understanding of the TVET context, and an ability to communicate effectively across language groups and manage the classroom environment.