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TVET colleges are a viable alternative to varsity

Matriculants can learn skills needed for jobs SA economy needs

Isaac Mahlangu Senior reporter
Stock photo.
Stock photo.

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in SA is an important and viable option for matriculants because it arms them with critical skills they can use to immediately earn a living.

Fifty TVET colleges and around 270 campuses nationwide and eight new ones are to be opened soon. The colleges are also positioned closer to communities.

Sam Zungu, deputy director-general responsible for TVET colleges in the department of higher education and training, said the colleges are “strategically positioned” to ensure easy access for young people.

“They are for our young people who aspire to have a career, either becoming an artisan or acquiring skills they can use to earn a living,” Zungu said.

He said the structure of SA’s economy mostly requires entry-level skills that can be acquired in a TVET college as opposed to a university.

“When matric results are released everyone is queueing up to go to university and when they get accommodated in numbers some of them end up as unemployed graduates,” Zungu said.

He said most jobs that require entry-level skills have been neglected by locals and taken up by foreigners. 

“If you go to most of our restaurants and the hospitality industry, the majority of the people you find are of foreign origin and there are very few of our own people,” Zungu said.

He said this is despite the fact that TVET colleges offer courses and programmes in hospitality and tourism, among others.

“We are not seeing a huge intake on those programmes from our local people because everyone wants to go to a university,” he said.

Zungu said skills needed for job opportunities in construction such as for bricklayers, tilers, plumbers and electricians can be acquired in TVET colleges, which are often close to the doorsteps of young people.

He said in partnership with the department of science and innovation the department of higher education and training was building entrepreneurship and innovation hubs to be housed at TVET colleges, with about 10 of them already in operation.

“It is important to teach young people to start earning a living at a very young age,” Zungu said.

He said there was already almost 540,000 students attending TVET colleges but emphasised that there was capacity to take up more students as eight new campuses would soon come on-stream.

He said about 90% of students at TVET colleges were funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme which, among other things, covers tuition fees, accommodation and travel.

Education expert Mary Metcalfe said initiatives that enable young South Africans to create livelihoods have to be prioritised and supported.

She mentioned among them President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Youth Employment Service, a partnership between the private sector and the government aimed at assisting the youth to get work experience through employment placement.

These all need to be expanded, and in the case of TVET, the quality has improved so that young people feel they have viable alternatives, a sense of hope and of inclusion into society, Metcalfe said.

She said empowering young people with skills to make a living would make them an asset to society.

Kuben Nair, the chief brand officer for the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a non-profit social enterprise dealing with youth unemployment, said there will be a demand for hundreds of thousands of skilled trade and artisans over the next 10 years in the plumbing, electrical, automotive and construction sectors.

“TVET colleges offer the best pathways for young people to access those jobs and a multi-sector of installation, repair and maintenance,” Nair said.

He said initiatives between the government, the National Business Initiative, which is a voluntary group of leading national and multinational companies, industry, TVETs and Harambee were working on accelerating the skilling and hiring of young people for those jobs.

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