FET Colleges…the answer for our education system?
With the UJ registration debacle that took place earlier this year, it is evidently clear that our school leavers value education and the role it plays in our economic emancipation. With that said most of South Africans are low to middle income earners and cannot afford the exorbitant varsity fees nor do the older less privileged masses afford to up skill themselves. What other alternatives are there for a country rife with unemployment and new job opportunities persistently limited?
Vocational education through Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, apprenticeships and learnerships seems like the logical and quickest way to curb the skills shortage and the economic and educational frustrations our people are facing. President Jacob Zuma’s announcement earlier this month that the government has allocated R2.5 billion towards the refurbishment and construction of new Further Education and Training (FET) colleges over the next three years is a welcome step in the right direction.
The skills development summit, held in April 2012 provided a platform for FET college principals to engage with President Zuma on the central role FETs within the country's skills development strategy and in particular, government's new infrastructure development priority programme.
"Universities are important in any economy but the example of successful industrial economies such as Germany point to the importance of vocationally-based training, rooted in an apprenticeship model... Such a vocational focus enables the building of a strong manufacturing base and productive economy," Zuma said.
FET colleges provide theory and practical education in many vocations including agriculture, manufacturing, construction, forestry, and mining – ultimately preparing the students for the work place environment. Steve Loubser, principal at Desto, a privately owned FET college based in Pretoria explains, “Learners require workplace experience because employers are reluctant to employ people who lack experience. We (FET colleges) enter as the third party alleviating these restrictions by providing theory and practical training to the learners to obtain the required education and skills simultaneously.”
Desto is an education, training and development company that on average trains two thousand learners per annum, providing the market place with competent and skilled people.
The company also provides learnership and apprenticeship opportunities to its students and contributes to business and social development. The college has been involved in community upliftment through the provision of labour and the obtainment of private sponsorships for community projects such as building RDP houses, community centres, upgrading schools and churches, a current example being the TLC old-age home being built by their students in Hammanskraal.
Some privately owned FET colleges, such as Desto, are SETA accredited adhering to the different SETAs requirements, presenting learnerships in Information Technology, New Venture Creation, Forestry, Construction, Security and Cabinet Making, providing on the job training services for companies and thus supplying employers with adequately trained employees.
FET colleges are no longer learning institutions to be frowned upon , they could possibly be the only option, especially for the disadvantaged majority. University fees are not getting any cheaper, employers demand work experience and time unfortunately waits for no one.
Zuma re-iterated this by calling on society to change their mind-sets to enable FET colleges to become institutions of choice for many young people, so the country could obtain much needed technical skills.