South Africa Allocates ZAR2.5 Billion For New FET College Campuses

Pretoria - A total of R2.5 billion is to be allocated towards the refurbishment and construction of new campuses of Further Education and Training (FET) colleges over the next three years, President Jacob Zuma announced on Wednesday.

"In keeping with the strategic priorities of the National Skills Development Strategy III, which includes the expansion and strengthening of public [FET] colleges, the National Skills Fund and the SETAs will allocate R2.5 billion towards the refurbishment and construction of new campuses of FET colleges over the next three years," Zuma said at his skills development summit with FET college principals in Pretoria.

The summit was a platform for FET college principals to engage and deliberate on the central role FETs occupy within the country's skills development strategy and in particular, government's new infrastructure development priority programme.

Further details on the project will be provided by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande in his budget vote speech later this month.

The meeting was attended by the principals from all 50 FET colleges, who run 264 campuses nationwide, and the chairpersons of college councils and deputy principals.

Delegates sought to address the current level of skills development and how the country could produce the scarce skills that were necessary to make the comprehensive national infrastructure development programme a success.

The meeting was also attended by ministers who are members of the management committee of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.

Zuma re-iterated that while universities and universities of technology were important, FET colleges were equally important. He called 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.

"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," he said.

He stressed the need to tackle head-on the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, adding that education and skills development were the most powerful tools in achieving this goal.

An optimistic Zuma said the country already had good plans in place for meaningful economic development and job creation.

"We launched the New Growth Path framework in 2010. The framework sets the creation of decent work opportunities as the central economic goal of government."

Government has identified the sectors where jobs can be created on a large scale, including:
· infrastructure development
· mining and beneficiation
· agriculture and the processing of farm products
· manufacturing
· green economy
· tourism and high level services; and
· the knowledge-based sectors of the economy.

During his State of the Nation Address in February this year, Zuma announced a large and bold infrastructure plan for the country's economy.

The infrastructure plan includes the expansion of ports and rail-lines; modernising the road networks; the building of dams and irrigation systems, power stations as well as renewable energy plants; laying of transmission lines and broadband inside the country; and expanding the building of schools, hospitals and universities.

"Seventeen large integrated projects have been finalised and the implementation will now commence. The relevance of FET colleges in the infrastructure development project cannot be overstated.

"The construction, maintenance and operation of infrastructure as well as the operation of assets require the kind of skills that FET colleges are well-equipped to provide… but for FETs to succeed, they should be more effective and better-performing, graduation rates will need to rise," he told the principals.

Gabi Khumalo
- BuaNews