/ 13 January 2012

FET colleges cast the net wider

Students who enrol at further education and training (FET) colleges benefit from training programmes that increase their chances of employment and self-sustainability. Employers, on the other hand, benefit from being able to choose from a skilled human-resource base that is appropriately trained and mentored for organisational productivity, continuity and longevity.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of programmes that students can take at FET colleges — vocational and occupational training. The first leads to the national certificate vocational qualification, known as the NC(V). The programmes in this category are designed to equip students with relevant skills for their future career development in the workplace or in self-employment and adequate readiness to access higher education.

The occupational training programmes, on the other hand, include the skills programmes and learnerships offered at FET colleges. They are accredited by the sector education and training authorities (Setas) and aim to train individuals in specific trades for self-employment or formal employment in the workplace.

Prospective students and their parents should know that programmes at FET colleges are meant not only for those leaving matric but also for all youth categorised as “neets” (not in education, employment or training). They are included because programmes at FET colleges are also meant to refresh training and improve skills.

Being specific
With a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical skills, the vocational programmes create opportunities for thousands of post-school candidates to access education and training in specific fields.

For instance, those offered at the Orbit FET College include civil engineering and building construction (masonry and tiling, and carpentry and roofwork), electrical infrastructure construction, engineering and related design (fabrication, fitting and turning, and automotive repair and maintenance), finance, economics and accounting, management, office administration, information technology and computer science, tourism, hospitality, and transport and logistics.

All the vocational programmes and qualifications are commissioned by the higher education and training department and their quality is assured by the quality assurance council, Umalusi. Other courses, also referred to as alternative post-school programmes, similarly combine theory and practice and lead to a diploma.

Occupational programmes at Orbit include early childhood development, jewellery design and manufacture, hairdressing, and automotive repair and maintenance. Their quality assurance is conducted by the Setas or accrediting bodies that are specific to each of the various fields. Vocational and occupational programmes are best suited to provide students with the skills required by current economic trends.

A manual has recently been developed by the Swiss-South African Cooperation Initiative that draws from its experience in facilitating workplace-based experience for students and lecturers in selected public FET colleges from 2008 to 2010.

This supports the ongoing efforts at FET colleges to provide workplace-based experience to enhance the employability of the students. It is therefore intended to strengthen the ties between FET colleges and business and industry … ties that can only benefit both college students and employers.

Joseph Sengooba is the public relations and communications officer at Orbit FET College.