Private sector urged to partner with TVET colleges

Gill Connellan

Gill Connellan

Earlier this month, at a Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) meeting held at Ekurhuleni West College in Germiston, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa called on private companies across South Africa to become part of the skills revolution by partnering with Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

Ramaphosa said that partnerships between companies and colleges on learning programmes would ensure a supply of relevant high quality skills to respond to the economic and social needs of the country. “It will contribute to the more effective absorption of TVET college graduates into the labour market through formalised apprenticeship and learnership arrangements.”

According to Lyndy van den Barselaar, the managing director of Manpower South Africa, such a partnership is crucial in resolving South Africa’s skills gap crisis. “These colleges are extremely important in helping to close the skills gap in certain major sectors,” she said. “It is critical that these colleges work closely with businesses both in the public and private sector, to ensure that they are transferring the necessary skills to their learners.

“This will increase the number of skilled individuals entering the job market and increase their chances of finding work. This also creates a positive basis for the transfer of knowledge on to future generations entering the workplace, who may need training or mentorship when they start out.”

However, according to Gill Connellan, chairperson of the Association for Skills Development in South Africa, implementing such partnerships has proven difficult in practice. 

“TVET colleges should be the hub of our skills and talent pool. Instead, many of them are dysfunctional and unwilling or unable to enter into viable projects with the private sector.

“Many of the TVET colleges [have] been unwilling to become flexible learning institutions. For example, when business finds it difficult to release people to blocks of training, the colleges are often unwilling to flex their hours to enable students to attend classes out of work hours.”

But the department of higher education and training (DHET) says that it is actively working toward effecting positive change across the TVET spectrum, which encompasses 50 multi-site colleges, catering to approximately 710 000 students.  Dr MN Nkoe, who is part of the DHET’s Public TVET Colleges department, said that the DHET has invested heavily in infrastructure upgrading.  The focus, he said, is on “improving the quality of teaching and learning”.

“In addition, the offering of quality programmes which address the country’s skills shortage  — including the training of TVET college lecturers to offer quality teaching and learning — form part of the apex priorities of the country.”

Nkoe added that funding available to academically deserving students wishing to opt for the TVET college route has increased, and proper structures including councils and financial management structures have been set up, while new programmes have been developed in the form of NC (V) (National Certificate Vocational) programmes. NC (V) programmes are designed to provide both the theoretical and practical aspects of specific fields. The practical component usually occurs in a real or simulated workplace environment, providing an opportunity for students to experience working in their field of study.  

According to Nkoe, the Strategic Integrated Projects which were announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address identified priority programmes that must be taught at TVET Colleges. These programmes are clustered into four categories, namely, manufacturing (welder; boilermaker; pipe fitter); mechanical (fitter & turner; rigger; automotive mechanic; diesel mechanic); electrical (millwright; electrician; mechanical fitter) and civil (plumber; bricklayer; carpenter/joiner). 

TVET colleges should aim to implement a sound post-school education and training legislative framework, said Nkoe. “They should also be aimed at:  providing sound post-school education and training services, providing post-school education and training capacity and access, facilitating a strong stakeholder network across other sectors, ensuring continuous business excellence within the DHET, and developing partnerships and maintaining good stakeholder relations in support of an effectual Post School Education and Training system.”