Industry-assisted technical training the way forward for SA

May 21st, 2018, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize

The government has committed itself to intensify its focus on the training of young people in technical artisan trades to reduce unemployment and foster entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Naledi Pandor, minister of higher education and training

Speaking at the launch of the Technical Education for Communities (TEC) initiative at the Sedibeng Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college in Sebokeng recently, Naledi Pandor, the minister of higher education and training, thanked and congratulated the Sedibeng TVET and the management of Cummins and Komatsu for pioneering this initiative.

The minister said that South Africa needs artisans who can provide the skills needed to achieve the government’s vision for greater industrialisation and to build the country’s new infrastructure for economic growth.

This economic growth, Pandor said, will result in a lower unemployment rate – especially among young people, and help to reduce the inequality so prevalent in our society. The minister said that it is her intention to make TVETs the first choice for school-leavers in the future.

Too many school-leavers opt for a university degree, but universities do not offer the kind of hands-on training most South African industries need, Pandor said. TVET colleges, on the other hand, offer school-leavers practical training which makes TVET graduates attractive to industry, both locally and abroad.

According the minister, South Africa needs both employees and employers in the job sector. Practical, artisan-level training, affords graduates of TVET colleges the opportunity to become highly skilled, valued and valuable members of staff at many of South Africa’s industrial companies. This same training, followed by a few years of practical experience, also provides an excellent springboard for such skilled artisans to venture out on their own, start their own businesses and become the employers of the future.

Naledi Pandor with some of the students selected to participate in the TEC initiative.

Addressing the 31 students who had been selected to participate from this initiative, the minister said that they should take every advantage this initiative offers and work hard to maximise the benefit it presents. There are so many opportunities in Africa, she said, as the continent seeks to replace or upgrade ageing infrastructure, add new rail and power networks, and improve the lives of all its citizens.

Pandor said that the best and most successful economies in the world are those which comprise many thousands – if not millions – of small and medium-sized enterprises. For too long, she said, South Africa’s economy has been made up of a few large monopolies. These monopolies make a few people very wealthy but do little for the greater population. Small and medium-sized enterprises employ more people and spread the wealth more evenly, she said.

The government’s aim, as part of its National Development Plan, is to add 30 000 new artisans into the workplace every year from 2030, building on from the 21 000 new artisans who qualified in 2017, the minister said.

To achieve her objective of making TVETs more attractive to school-leavers, the Department of Higher Education and Training plans to help TVET colleges to build strong relationships with industrial companies. Citing the example of the TEC launched at the Sedibeng TVET, Pandor said TVETs must actively seek to collaborate with industry. She wants to see many more TEC launches in the coming months and years, she said.

Minister Pandor cuts the ribbon to launch the TEC.

Pandor said that her department is aware that, although Sedibeng TVET is very well run and highly organised, many other TVETs have a long way to go to reach a standard of excellence which would make them acceptable to large industrial companies.

To this end, TVETs must adjust their curriculum to suit industry’s needs – with input from industry, she said. They must also improve their leadership and facilities.

One of the problems she has discovered is the conflict of interest which exists in some TVETs where officials are directly involved in tenders or doing private work. Her department will put a stop to such behaviour, she said. Equally, violence, arson and vandalism, often perpetrated by students, will not be tolerated. TVET officials and students alike must focus on the aim of achieving high-quality, professionally skilled artisans.