PRESIDENT ZUMA'S ALLOCATION OF R2.5 BILLION TO FET'S
Posted on 5 April 2012
SEIFSA welcomes the announcement by President Jacob Zuma that R2.5 billion is to be allocated towards the refurbishment and construction of further education and training college campuses (FETs) over the next three years.
The colleges have a key role to play in building a larger and more vibrant sector as a central component of South Africa’s skills development system by providing general vocational training as well as the theoretical component of apprentice training to young people. It is widely recognised that the colleges (previously called technical colleges) are weak institutions facing myriad problems of leadership, management, funding and support when compared with institutions in the better resourced higher education sector.
Very poor student pass rates have been cause for major concern to the employer community since the colleges have a key role to play in providing a pipeline of young people ready to embark on further education and training or to enter the world of work with appropriate skills and competencies. The recently released Department of Higher Education and Training Green Paper for Post-School Education and Training quotes the dismal statistic that the N course certification rate over the years has remained consistently poor at around 12%. Equally alarming is the fact that the newer National Certificate (Vocational) programmes demonstrated a 4% throughput rate of the first 2007 cohort of students who completed the three year qualification in 2009. In many respects, the colleges have been failing both young people and employers as well and they are often regarded as the step-child of the post-school system.
The metal and engineering industry is the largest trainer of apprentices in South Africa by a long chalk and so the upgrading and repositioning of the FET colleges should enable them to play a major role in preparing young people for the world of work in the technical and trade arena. A vibrant college system has the potential to jumpstart young people into training opportunities that will contribute to their own growth, development and employment opportunities and simultaneously to strengthen the economy since skills development at the intermediate technical skills level is critical for the country.
While welcoming the major new funding to the system, SEIFSA recognises of course that funding is only one element of transforming and strengthening the FET colleges. There are a host of additional challenges that require robust engagement and these include consideration of appropriate entry levels of students, refocusing or rationalising current college offerings, strengthening and upgrading the lecturers and, crucially, improving relationships with the employer community.
“As employers, we welcome government’s stated commitment to refocus the college sector and align it with the needs of industry”, says SEIFSA president, Henk Duys. “We are aware of commitment eight of the National Skills Accord signed last year by the social partners under the umbrella of Nedlac: To improve the role and performance of FET colleges. We also fully recognise that success in this objective can only be achieved if all the stakeholders stand together as partners since it has far-reaching social and economic benefits for all South Africans”.