Training fails to make a mark

2014-11-23 15:00

South Africa’s job training programmes are weak, undesirable and do not respond to labour market needs.

Those are the findings of a review by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), commissioned by the department of higher education and training.

The report was released earlier this week at the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) conference in Midrand.

It slams South Africa’s vocational colleges – formerly known as Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, now known as TVETs – for:

»?Poor responsiveness to labour market needs;

»?Weak work-based learning;

»?Limited artisan programmes – for students choosing to be electricians, plumbers and boilermakers;

»?Inadequate data about whether their students find jobs;

»?Bad public image, with parents and potential students viewing them as less desirable;

»?Weak management with some constantly under administration; and

»?Badly trained lecturers who lack a theoretical and practical grasp of their jobs.

The OECD report said: “Employers perceive TVET colleges’ output as not providing the kind of skills they require in industry and an increasing number of young people who have received some form of artisan training do not find work after graduation.”

It added that work-based learning was often weak and unsystematic, and that employers and trade unions were not involved in the design of curriculums, so they ended up having limited use in the workplace.

However, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said at the conference that he was aware of these shortcomings and was working “overtime” to address them.

Nzimande told the conference his department had decided to rename FET colleges to TVET colleges after recognising the importance of vocational training.

He told the principals of TVET colleges, most of whom had attended the conference, that they had to find partnerships with industry.

“If you are not in partnership with a company, you are not a TVET, you are still an FET. No one should have an excuse. Even in rural areas, colleges could partner with police stations so that motor mechanic students can fix broken police cars.”

Nzimande said his department had formulated turnaround strategies for all struggling TVETs.

Some colleges made presentations on how they had already forged successful partnerships with companies, which had already placed their training needs in the colleges’ hands.

The Flavius Mareka TVET College in Sasolburg in the Vaal made a presentation on how Sasol had decided to outsource the training of 120 learners in a chemical operations course to the college.

A partnership between the Mopani South East TVET College in Limpopo and mines in the region had resulted in the mines outsourcing the training of hundreds of learners in critical skills that were in short supply in the mines.

The report said one fatal weakness about the system was the failure to collect data on whether programmes had been successful.

“The function of vocational education is to prepare people for jobs and careers, so the absence of data on whether given programmes have been successful is a fatal weakness,” said the report.

About the lack of qualified lecturers, the report said: “At least 25% of lecturers lack teaching qualifications and more than half have no industry experience. Occupational lecturers with artisan qualifications are few.”

Nzimande said he had contracted a university to develop a full course to train TVET college lecturers.

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