Jobs and the young – How FET colleges can be improved

2012-07-14 12:05

In City Press (June 24), Charl du Plessis questioned whether further education and training (FET) colleges will fix our future.

No – not in their current state. They do, however, have the potential to play a pivotal role.

Critically one has to consider whether these colleges develop students who can be employed.

Key requirements include:

»Curriculum relevance;

»Quality of teaching and learning;

»Fairness and reliability of assessments;

»Strategic use of funding; and

»Effective and accountable governance.

One of the major problems regarding the National Certificate (Vocational) (NCV) is that the curriculum is not fully aligned to employers’ skills demands.

Employers do not know what the NCV involves and whether it provides the knowledge and skills base they need.

This makes them hesitant to employ FET students.

The curriculum development for the NCV should be a collaborative effort by curriculum specialists and industry experts.

Curricula should also be revised regularly for continued relevance.

Lecturers in many instances also have no practical experience, or come from the industry but have no teaching knowledge, skills and experience. This needs to change.

Lecturers must be developed further, while well-trained, quality lecturers will have to be attracted to the FET college sector.

There are still more than 22 000 college certificates outstanding.

Without certificates, graduates cannot enter the job market and also risk losing any employment they do have. This must be fixed.

The R2.5 billion allocated for the renovation and expansion of FET college infrastructure is more than welcome – but one of the areas that needs urgent attention is the availability of residences for students.

Many students come from rural areas and desperately need affordable accommodation.

Although the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) does provide funding for students at FET colleges, this is limited to the enrolment plan of the various colleges.

More funding must be allocated if the three-fold increase in FET college students, as envisaged in the higher education department’s green paper, is to be achieved.

If NSFAS funding does not provide for meals, colleges try to assist students from their own funds.

This is not sustainable in the long run. NSFAS funds are also not available for students when they register at the beginning of the year when they have to pay for accommodation, transport and books. Students start off on the back foot.

This must change. It is also crucial that FET college management and councils be improved and stabilised, and that a proper survey is done of infrastructure and staff resources.

We have more university students than FET students. It should be the other way around if we are to provide a future for our youth and grow the economy. – Annelie Lotriet

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