Blade Nzimande goes door to door to get college internships

2014-04-16 17:07

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Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has embarked on a “door-to-door campaign” to convince companies to offer college graduates internships.

Nzimande announced this in Germiston on the East Rand today, where he was launching a partnership between his department and the Swiss Chamber of Commerce.

“Last week I was at the King Shaka International Airport in Durban. I stopped there to ask if there were any interns from colleges. They told me no. I got onto the phone with the chairperson of the airports company and she assured me that they will have interns in all airports and even inside flights.”

Nzimande said he will knock on the doors of every major company operating in the country and ask them to take college interns. “My next stop is parastatals, municipalities and water boards.”

Last year, Nzimande launched a programme that saw the provincial government in Gauteng partner with his department to offer internships to hundreds of FET graduates.

The project has since been extended to the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.

“As we speak, more than 10 000 college graduates are doing their internships in these three provinces.”

Among others, the three-year partnership between Nzimande’s department and the Swiss Chamber of Commerce will see:

» Further and Education and Training graduates get internships in Swiss companies operating in South Africa;

» Lecturers and experts from Swiss companies will be placed in FETs to tutor specific subjects;

» FET lecturers will visit Swiss companies to get exposure and first-hand experience in the workplace; and

» Swiss experts will get involved in the enhancement of the curriculum of some courses offered by FETs.

“Workplace placement is at the heart of what we are trying to do. We can’t talk about vocational education without workplace training,” Nzimande said.

It was a shame, he said, for South African companies to be outdone by Swiss companies.

Heinrich Maurer, a diplomat from the Swiss Embassy, said vocational education was a critical pillar in the sustainable economic success of any country.

More than 80% of the Swiss and German workforce, he said, studied in colleges. “They spend four days in a week at workplace training.”

He said it was strange that most South Africans wanted to study at universities.

“Employment among people who studied in colleges in Switzerland is very, very low as compared to people who studied in colleges.”

Louis Coetzer, principal of the Western Public FET College, said FETs had a bad reputation of offering substandard education. “Industry believes they are for people who failed matric or for those who didn’t have marks good enough to make it to university.”

Nzimande said he was working hard to change perceptions employers have about FETs. “By 2030, we want to have four FET college students for every university student.”

Sullivan O’Carroll, managing director of Nestlé SA, said there also wasn’t enough cooperation between industry, Setas, FETs and the government.

“There is definitely a mismatch between what the industry needs, funding and what FETs are producing. Skills are very important for us. We spend so much money upskilling people so that we can be competitive.”

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