Everything you need to know about SA's TVET colleges


Pricey university courses are not your only option after school.  Last year basic education minister Angie Motshekga’s announced the introduction of a new certificate for learners who leave school after completing Grade 9. The certificate will be implemented only in 2017 but learners can already apply to technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges – they just won’t have the certificate to send in with their application forms.

What are TVET colleges?

These colleges provide training for careers is range of areas, from office administration, tourism and hospitality to primary agriculture, primary health, transport and logistics, information technology and computer science.

They also offer courses in the engineering field, including electrical engineering, motor mechanics, industrial and mechanical engineering.

These are among many jobs that require a certain level of skill but not university-level training. Many of them are ideal for people who are practical or good with people but not necessarily academically strong.

TVET colleges – previously known as further education and training (FET) colleges – provide theoretical and practical training in these fields. They’re not only for people who haven’t completed Grade 12 – many matriculants enrol at a TVET college to follow a trade.

Public colleges, such as Central Johannesburg College and College of Cape Town, fall under the auspices of the department of higher education and training (DHET). The government has thrown its weight behind these institutions because the country needs more mid-level technical skilled people such as artisans, motor mechanics, engineers, electricians, mining specialists and handymen, DHET spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana says. There are also private colleges, such as Damelin, which are required to be registered as an institution of higher education with the DHET and offer accredited courses (see below).

How they work

There are two main streams for Grade 9 school-leavers – the National Certificate (Vocational) – NC(V) ? and engineering studies N1-N3.

The NC(V) is a three-year programme that takes you from level 2 to level 4. You get a certificate upon completing each level and receive your NC(V) after completing level 4 (this is the equivalent of a matric certificate).

The NC(V), which can be used to apply to a university if you meet the admission requirements, combines theory and practice and is made up of seven subjects – three foundation subjects (maths literacy, a language and life orientation), and four vocational subjects that are determined by your field of study.

For example, tourism students take subjects such as tourism operations, science of tourism, sustainable tourism and client services and human relations.

Engineering studies is open to Grade 9 school-leavers who’ve passed maths and science. It’s a one-year programme that takes you from N1 to N3 and offers subjects such as mathematics, engineering science and engineering drawing as well as a trade-related subject.

Matriculants who apply to do engineering studies at a TVET college start at N4 (and go up to N6) while learners who have Grade 9 start at N1. If you’re interested in becoming an electrician, for example, and you complete N2, pass your practical trade test and work 18 months in the field, you’ll be a qualified electrician. But you can also choose to continue with your studies by getting your N3, then obtaining a diploma in engineering studies (N4-N6), and become an electrical technician, which offers better career prospects. But although Grade 9 can get you into N1, some companies prefer to take on only apprentices who have matric.

What it costs

The cost varies depending on the college and field of study. “Public colleges are usually more affordable as government subsidises 80 percent of the cost of classes” says Danita Welgemoed, chief education specialist in the Western Cape Provincial DHET. Engineering and hospitality are some of the more expensive courses, she says. A three-year hospitality course at a public college costs about R14 500 a year, while a three-year office administration course costs about R7 700 a year.

How to apply

Procedures differ from college to college but usually you need to complete an application, submit it with your ID, proof of residence and a copy of your Grade 9 results.

Learners must be 16 years or older. Most colleges require you to write an entrance exam consisting of an interest test, as well as numeracy and literacy assessments, and have an individual interview, Welgemoed says. “The tests are done to establish students’ numeracy and literacy levels as well as their career interests. The results of the tests are used to place students in appropriate programmes and provide them with on-course support if there are gaps in numeracy and literacy,” she says. If you don’t score well in literacy and numeracy it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t make the cut. You can get academic support to improve your maths or literacy while continuing your studies. But if the knowledge gap is too great – for instance if you want to do engineering studies but your grasp of maths is too poor – you’ll have to choose a new field of study.

Bursaries for vocational training

The DHET has allocated R2,2 billion to the TVET college bursaries scheme to assist financially disadvantaged students. You can find out from colleges if they offer bursaries and how to apply – all have their own requirements. The bursary scheme is administered by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), but you need to apply through your college. Some colleges also offer smaller bursaries for specific courses, Welgemoed says.

Beware of bogus colleges

There are many excellent private colleges with accredited programmes – but there also are bogus colleges that have robbed students of thousands of rands for qualifications that are worthless.

All private TVET colleges and higher education institutions must be registered with the the department of higher education

and training (DHET) and the programmes they offer must be accredited.

The government has taken steps against these fake institutions, DHET spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana says. “They’re mushrooming everywhere as a way of making money out of the poor. We have shut down some of them and opened criminal cases against more than 39,” he adds. “We’ve just secured a conviction in one case. They’re a big problem and a significant contributor to the increase of fake qualifications in South Africa.”

You can check if an institution is registered by looking for its name on the DHET’s register of private colleges on its website (dhet.gov.za). Alternatively, call the toll-free number 0800-87-22-22.

“We encourage people to ask whether the college where they want to enrol is registered or not. Secondly, they should ask whether the course they intend to enrol for is accredited or not,” Nkwanyana says.

Sources: dhet.gov.za, tvetcolleges.co.za, damelin.co.za, seta-southafrica.com, sabc.co.za, iol.co.za

You may also like:

What does a university education in SA cost right now?

9 tips for paying off your student loan

Fees will not fall: students tell us what they think of Blade Nzimande’s annoucement

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24