A skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path



In 2030, higher education and vocational training in South Africa produces highly skilled graduates, ready to meet both the present and future needs of economy and society.

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 A skilled workforce – Downloads

Find out more about the National Development Plan.

National Development Plan – full text
National Development Plan – Chapter 9: Improving education, training and innovation
Medium-Term Strategic Framework 2014 to 2019 – Outcome 5: A skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path
New Growth Path: National Skills Accord
Infographic: Improving education, training and innovation

A skilled workforce – The vision

The National Development Plan’s vision is that, in 2030, South Africa’s education, training and innovation system caters for different needs and produces highly skilled individuals. Graduates of universities and technical and vocational colleges have the skills and knowledge to meet both the present and future needs of economy and society.

Innovation introduces new products to the market and ensures goods and services are produced more efficiently. Research and development is significantly expanded. Collaboration across the South African education system and with internationally accredited institutions leads to higher levels of innovation.

The different parts of the education system work together, allowing learners to take different pathways to high-quality learning opportunities. There are clear linkages between schools, further education and training colleges, universities of technology, universities and other education providers. There are also clear linkages between education and training and the world of work.

Lifelong learning and continuous professional development build the capabilities of both citizens and society.


By 2030:

• The college system has been expanded with a focus on improving quality. Better quality will build confidence in the college sector and attract more learners. The recommended participation rate of 25% would accommodate about 1.25-million enrolments.
• Provide 1-million learning opportunities through Community Education and Training Centres.
• Improve the throughput rate to 80% by 2030.
• Produce 30 000 artisans per year.
• Increase enrolment at universities by at least 70% by 2030 so that enrolments increase to 1.62-million from 950 000 in 2010.
• Increase the number of students eligible to study towards maths- and science-based degrees to 450 000 by 2030.
• Increase the percentage of PhD-qualified staff in the higher education sector from the current 34% to over 75% by 2030.
• Produce more than 100 doctoral graduates per million per year by 2030 – an increase from 1420 in 2010 to well over 5 000 a year.
• Expand science, technology and innovation outputs by increasing research and development spending by government and through encouraging industry to do so.


A skilled workforce – The challenges

Current participation in post-school education and training is limited, insufficient for the skills needs of the economy and society. It is also skewed towards university education, which few students that can attend. Three times as many students enter universities as enrol in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. This is not sustainable if South Africa’s skills needs are to be met.

About 1-million young people leave school every year, many without completing matric. Half leave school with only a Grade 11 qualification. But only a small number of those leaving school enrol in TVET colleges or have any post-school education.

The university sector is not an alternative for these students, and those who do make it to universities face challenges forcing them to drop out.

Few of those who do get post-school education are properly prepared for the workplace, often because of the poor quality of their training.

The poor quality of the public schools system has transferred the problem to an ill-equipped university system that is failing to cope with the increased number of students and demands for academic support. The net effect is a system that is not able to produce the number and quality of graduates needed by the economy.


A skilled workforce – Action required

The TVET system has to grow substantially to be responsive to changing labour-market and individual needs, and yet be flexible enough to address skills imbalances and shortages. This requires a responsive properly planned and effective technical and vocational education and training system.

The priority should first be to stabilise the system, while providing clarity about its vision and role in the post-school education and training system. This should be supported by the availability of qualified lecturers, a suitable legal framework, strong partnerships with industry and social partners.

Specific action includes:

• Support the development of specialised programmes in universities focusing on training college lecturers and provide funding for universities to conduct research on the vocational education sector.
• Build the capacity of FET and TVET colleges to become preferred institutions for vocational education and training. Learners should be able to choose the vocational pathway before completing Grade 12. Expand the geographical spread of vocational training institutions.
• Build a strong relationship between the college sector and industry. Setas – Sector Education and Training Authorities – have a crucial role in building relationships between education institutions and employers.


A skilled workforce – Key medium-term goals for 2019

South Africa’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014 to 2019) identifies the following sub-outcomes to achieve a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path.

• A credible institutional mechanism for labour market and skills planning
• Increase access and success in programmes leading to intermediate and high level learning
• Increase access to high-level occupationally directed programmes in needed areas
• Increase access to occupationally-directed programmes in needed areas and thereby expand the availability of intermediate level skills with a special focus on artisan skills

A skilled workforce – Key medium-term targets for 2019

South Africa’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014 to 2019) identifies the following targets to achieve a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path.

05 skills targetsGRAPHIC: MARY ALEXANDER

Researched, edited and compiled by Mary Alexander
Updated December 2015