Vocational training gives people options other than studying at a university. Increased efforts from the government in this sector could help to empower people with skills development and contribute positively to employment rates.
Vocational training could help South Africa to reach its goals, as outlined in the National Development Plan, to reduce unemployment. (Photo: Brand South Africa)
Compiled by Priya Pitamber
A survey of South African chief executive officers found that 36% were extremely concerned about the availability of key skills, compared to a global average of 17%, stated a recent report on vocational education and training in four countries: South Africa, the UK, India and the USA.
The report, from the global skills development company, City and Guilds Group, highlighted how vocational education and training (VET) could have a substantial influence on global economies.
Vocational training is generally for a career in the technical or practical fields and includes a diverse range of careers, such as carpentry, plumbing, and beauty therapy. VET could significantly benefit individuals and businesses, but it was not getting the traction and recognition it needed to attract a large number of students, the report found.
In South Africa in particular, VET could help the country to reach its National Development goal of decent employment, as well as help to develop the skills necessary to create a capable workforce to support inclusive growth.
“The report indicates that vocational education can help to fill skills gaps, boost productivity, enhance industries and increase employment – all of which have a significant impact on individuals, businesses and the economy as a whole,” said Mike Dawe, the director of international at the City and Guilds Group.
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“However, there is an ongoing challenge in South Africa, where vocational institutions and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges find it difficult to attract large numbers of students,” Dawe noted. “People still see university study as the first prize and vocational options as second-choice at best – or they don’t even know what vocational options are out there.”
The report also acknowledged the progress South Africa had made, however. The country has one of the highest rates of public investment in education in the world. According to Brand South Africa, approximately 7% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 20% of total state expenditure is spent on education.
Apart from the more than R640-billion that would be allocated to basic education over the next three years, in his budget delivered on 25 February 2015, then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said that allocations to post-school education and training would exceed R195-billion over the medium term, increasing at an annual average of 7.1%.
“University operating subsidies will amount to R72.4-billion. Transfers to universities for infrastructure of R10.5-billion are proposed, including R3.2-billion for the new universities of Mpumalanga and Sol Plaatje.
“We are mindful of the pressures on student financing at our higher education institutions. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme is projected to spend R11.9-billion in 2017/18, up from R9.2-billion in 2014/15. This will support a further increase in university enrolments and in technical and vocational colleges.
“Progress in the quality of post-school education programmes is clearly critical. Under (Higher Education) Minister (Blade) Nzimande’s direction, the 21 sector education and training authorities and the National Skills Fund will continue to provide work placements for students and graduates.
“Raising the number of trainees who qualify as artisans is a special priority. Options for improving the skills funding system will be reviewed in the period ahead,” Nene said in his budget.
In an effort to increase VET, the South African government also plans to increase workplace training, starting with government agencies and departments who will be encouraged to offer workplace training for vocational students.
“Even though there is a lack of data proving the benefits of vocational education in many contexts around the world, national governments have realised the significant role vocational education and training plays in their countries’ futures,” added Dawe.
“The commitment from the government is encouraging and South Africa has a huge opportunity ahead of it.”