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Exploring FETs and TVETs as viable alternatives

Our university system is burdened with thousands of applications every year by matriculants hoping to better their lives through tertiary education. The truth of the matter is that South Africa’s 26 universities can’t accommodate 300 000 matriculants each year. Our universities are increasingly over-capacited, meaning that more and more people are unable to access tertiary education.

However, this picture doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom, as Further Education and Training (FET) and Tehnical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges serve as viable alternatives to universities, offering skills development and direct training in one’s chosen industry; as part of the qualifications, students are required to complete an internship or an apprenticeship.

FETs and TVETs are not only viable alternatives for those who didn’t get admitted to university; they are also viable alternatives for those who didn’t pass matric or who don’t wish to complete their studies through formal education channels. The National Qualifications Framework Act 67 of 2008 outlines that the basic level of education is grade nine, which is National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 1; matric is NQF level 4. This means that one can enrol at an FET or TVET with a grade 10, for example, to further one’s education.

After learning the theory in a relevant field, candidates are required to undergo an apprenticeship in a working environment, where they will gain working knowledge of their chosen feild, often under a mentor. Candidates get the opportunity to complete practical projects such as servicing or diagnosing a real-life problem, and thus become equipped with a working knowledge of the industry.

After undergoing training, gaining skills and learning the industry through an apprenticeship, individuals seeking to be recognised nationally as artisans will need to pass a Trade Test administered by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). The benefit with this system is that the hands-on approach mitigates the “no experience” plight faced by many young university graduates seeking employment.

Qualifications from TVETs aim to train individuals in very specific vocations such as automotive repair and maintenance, jewellery design, hairdressing and others. There are three areas one can consider when looking to apply to FETs: engineering, tourism and general administrative vocations. The skills development offered equips candidates with the necessary skills to embark on a career within their chosen industry.

The engineering fields include mechanical, civil and electrical engineering. Mechanical engineers can go on to be mechanics, electrical engineering artisans can go to work as electricians, and those in civil engineering can go into various aspects of construction technology.

There will always be a need for electricians, construction engineers and mechanics. Most importantly, there are also plenty of opportunities for self-employment. Artisans are always in demand because there’ll always be products, models and items that need to be created, maintained and repaired.

The travel and tourism sector in South Africa is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country and one of the biggest contributors towards the GDP. There is still a lot of work to be done to market tourism products, both locally and internationally. The tourism industry is a steady one with various points of entry creating more jobs. A diploma in tourism management or hospitality management can result in jobs such in accommodation, event management, working in a hotel or restaurant, or becoming catering or fast food manager.

Further education and training colleges provide training in logistics, marketing, operations management, business administration, human resources and accounting, all of which increase one’s chances of securing employment.

Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor said at the National Assembly last year, while introducing the Department’s 2018 budget, that the National Skills Fund has committed R150-million towards improving the infrastructure and expanding of TVET colleges to attract more young people. The state is also energising artisan development through the NDP’s target of 30 000 newly qualified artisans per year by 2030.

The youth should consider FETs and TVETs not only as secondary options to university admission, but as options that will equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to enter the job market and create employment opportunities for themselves and others.

A departing word of caution: at certain times of the year applicants get quite desperate, as they seek to register at various institutions of higher learning. The last thing you need is to spend your money by registering with a “fly-by-night” institution that is not accredited by the QTCO or Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta). To make sure the institution you are interested in is registered, visit and click on the links of various Setas to find a list of accredited providers.

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