15/11/2017 14:03 SAST | Updated 15/11/2017 14:18 SAST

TVET Colleges Could Transform South Africa's Skills Shortage – If Run Properly

Here's three things a properly managed artisanship and vocational training sector could do for SA.

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​​Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges are seen erroneously by some as inferior to university tertiary institutions.

Yet the recently released fees commission report recommended that TVET colleges become "institutions of first choice", and that they should be fee-free for all.

But the numerous challenges facing TVET colleges such as leadership, funding and infrastructure are well documented.

"One of the biggest challenges for this fifth parliament is the need... to build a vibrant TVET college sector capable of absorbing millions of unemployed youth and providing much needed skills to the economy," said the then-Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, during the budget speech vote in the National Assembly earlier this year.

The National Development Plan (NDP) identifies TVET colleges as an important part of addressing skills shortages in the country. The NDP expresses the goal of training more 30,000 artisans per annum by 2020 to improve the country's economy.

A vibrant TVET college sector could do the following for the country:

1. Cover the critical skills gap in South Africa

TVET colleges could help address the skills shortage in South Africa. The country needs skilled mechanics, electricians, carpenters, welders and boilermakers.

The colleges could also help prepare students for careers in industries like tourism and hospitality, primary agriculture, health, information technology and computer science.

2. Be a good fit for students who are more practically inclined

TVET colleges specialise in imparting specific professional, vocational or artisanship skills, although courses have both theoretical and practical components. So if one is looking for a hands-on approach to learning, TVET could the better option. Arguably, this enhances employability.

3. Offer a second chance to students who want to finish school

You do not necessarily need matric to study at a TVET college –– you need to have successfully completed Grade 9, or be at least 16 years old.

This could bridge the gap for students who dropped out of school for various reasons, and now want to complete their studies. It could also open the door to a university education.

For example, some universities accept students from TVET colleges with a National Vocational Certificate (level 4), which is equivalent to a matric certificate.

However, it's clear that for the above to happen, a lot of work still needs to be done to get TVET colleges to the point where they will be a viable option for all, regardless of socio-economic status: