MINISTER of Higher Education Blade Nzimande has called on the labour movement to fight for the return of the old "apartheid-style" artisan training colleges.
"You as workers must fight for artisan colleges - started by public enterprises during apartheid - to come back and train black people.
"Most of these colleges have closed down. They must be reopened to train black artisans," Nzimande said yesterday.
The minister was addressing Cosatu's education and training conference in Johannesburg.
He said there was a need to improve Further Education Training (FET) colleges and other training institutions.
"Other institutions such as nursing, teacher training and agricultural colleges must be strengthened and revived," he said.
FET colleges would be renamed Vocational and Career Colleges, Nzimande said.
He said the FET colleges had produced a reasonable number of artisans but that they (artisans) were used as cheap labour instead of being put into "learnerships".
Nzimande said it was wrong to not allow a qualified person with an N6 certificate from an FET to go straight into studying for an engineering degree at a university.
"That is as if that person never did anything at all.
"That is wrong," he said.
Nzimande also raised the alarm about the high number of unemployed youths.
He said the ministerial report on post-compulsory and post-school provision, commissioned by his predecessor Naledi Pandor, had painted a "grim picture" with this finding on 41percent of the country's youth.
Reiterating figures he had presented to Parliament last week, he said, 2,8million out of 6,8million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 were doing nothing.
"They are neither in employment nor in an education institution, nor in any training.
"In other words, they are doing nothing," the minister said.
Nzimande said these youths were vulnerable to exploitation as casual labourers, or being drawn into crime due to limited access to training, poor resources and a restricted job market.
"We can't allow this situation to continue without doing something drastic about it," the minister told the delegates.