Training a new generation of artisans

How colleges can help develop South Africa’s economy

Speaking at a breakfast meeting hosted by False Bay College, Principal Mr Cassie Kruger - revealed that a portion of the Denel/Swartklip site (a 491 hectare parcel of land between Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha) has been earmarked to develop an integrated campus focused on technical and vocational training located within historically marginalised areas. This campus will accommodate 3000 students annually.

The well-timed intervention is aligned to the recently tabled Department of Higher Education & Training’s (DHET) White Paper for Post School Education & Training which identifies the college sector, formerly referred to as Further Education Training (FET) colleges, as central to the provision of post-school education and training.

Currently colleges still enrol fewer students than universities, not an optimal reality in a country hampered by a shortfall in mid-level skills required for economic development and growth.

According to Kruger there are 650 0000 students enrolled in colleges: “The intention, as set out by the White Paper is that by 2015 there should be 1 million students enrolled in colleges countrywide. This is challenging colleges into a rapid growth phase that envisages 2.5 million students by 2030,” says Kruger.
The university sector by comparison has around 937 000 students, with forecasts for 2030 set to reach 1.6 million students by 2030.

“By that point the college sector will be nearly twice the size of the university sector. This will begin to rectify the inverted triangle whereby we have more professional engineers in the country than technicians and artisans “, says Kruger.

Attention will be focused on strengthening working relationships with employers over and above their integration and articulation with the rest of the post-school system. This will be bolstered by additional TVET college campuses, the first twelve of which will be established countrywide in 2015.

The entire post school system must be expanded to target the more than three million young people who are not in employment, education, or training. This is where colleges rooted in communities, such as those of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, will assist in developing skills for local industry, government and commerce, offering a route out of poverty.

The vision for the new site, still in its planning phase, is therefore to have a major construction facility to train carpenters, plumbers and electricians and a sophisticated automotive workshop for students looking to work in the automotive retail or component manufacturing sectors. A renewable energy facility will support future demand for component parts that will aid the development of the Green Economy.”

According to Kruger, the colleges will operate in collaboration with the input of the 21 SETAs. Industry too will be called on to play a greater role in bridging the skills gap and shaping the orientation of workplace training and experience

The SETAs under the DHET have given special focus to the training of artisans, declaring this to be the decade of the artisan. The vision is to dispel the traditional notion of the role and scope of technicians and artisans and to offer insight into the complex environments wherein these scarce skills can be deployed.

“The White paper is very clear that we need to re-establish a good artisan training system as we have a lack of artisans in our country and we are beginning to pay the price. If you want a job, become an artisan. That is as simple as it is. The targets set out in the White Paper are that we as a country should be able to produce 30 000 artisans per year by 2030.”

Kruger reiterates that the emphasis on these colleges is to move to a system of work-integrated learning where the teaching in the colleges will no longer be divorced from the experience in the workplace; where the programmes delivered in the colleges will be linked to time spent in the industry. This link to industry will be absolutely crucial.
Furthermore the strategy of attracting students to the TVET programmes will be aimed at consultation with schools.
Kruger elaborates: “The plan is to bring our schools closer to colleges and colleges closer to schools. This is very important for us because we need to expose young people at the schools and communities to all opportunities open to them.”

“Schools look at matric results as the final outcome, where good matric results are seen as the ultimate. But that is not the end of the road for the learner. After completing matric they could be sitting on the pavement unemployed because the cause and the root of most of our problems in the country is unemployment.

Whilst many schools do speak to pupils about career choices, it seems the role of the artisan is not a career avenue many people consider, and I think it is because people do not know what the work involves, what the potential of these careers are, and the complex environment in which they operate.”

The White Paper also addresses the large proportion of youth and adults who have not completed their schooling, or have never attended school. Part of the mandate of post-school education will be to set up Community Colleges for this purpose with the aim of offering a General Education & Training Certificate and Adult Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA) to afford 1 million students enrolment in these institutions by 2030.

“The White Paper also talks about a new central application service for the placements of students across the system. The White Paper envisages a central agency for post school education in order to promote transformation within the post-school sector and to redress the disparities that currently exists,” says Kruger.

A clear policy framework to guide the improvement of access to education for people with disabilities has also been outlined.

Kruger states, “I am very proud of False Bay College. We are the leading college in South Africa with regard to giving access to students with disabilities. The number of invitations we get to address this focus is indicative of this.

Modes of delivery has also been highlighted with interventions sought by the DHET to seriously investigate the possibility of providing distance education programmes at the TVET and community college level, including dedicated staff and equipment.

The theoretical component of apprenticeships might also be offered through distance education, especially for those students who live or work far from an appropriate college or who prefer this model.

According to Kruger, the challenge of delivery today stems from the history of these institutions. Says Kruger: “The FET college infrastructure was inherited from old technical colleges. If you look at 2002 when they were formed there were 150 technical colleges of which 111 of these were established for the white population, with the consequent lack of infrastructure in marginalised communities

As from July 2014, the College will be in a position to offer the N1, N2, N3 as well as the N4/N6 programmes on a blended e-learning programme. And we are still focusing on the people in our immediate environment because we do not want believe at this stage that pure distance learning will produce the results.”