The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has kicked off the campaign for the launch of 26 Centres of Specialisation (COS) aimed at prioritising 13 occupational trades in high demand to curb trade skills shortages as well as reduce unemployment and poverty in the country.
The COS are located at 26 Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges across the country. The colleges have been selected through a vigorous process undertaken by teams of education and industry experts to identify trades that are in demand for the infrastructure programmes as well as for other strategic programmes such as the ocean economy programme.
The selected colleges will be provided with resources to upgrade workshops and equipment to deliver effectively on these much needed skills.
The Centres are also positioned to prepare students for the workplace or self-employment through the maintenance of close working relationships with employers in their areas of study.
Partnerships between colleges and employers will assist the institutions to locate opportunities for work-integrated learning and help them to place students when they complete their qualifications.
The trades which are highly needed to grow the economy include: Electricians, millwright, boilermakers, plumbers, diesel mechanics, fitter and turner, pipe fitters and welders, riggers and mechanical fitters among others.
However, as we all know many qualified and experienced artisans were exiting the field, leaving a huge gap in the market for skilled artisans. In light of this mass exodus government has promoted the role of the artisan in economic development urging youth to pursue training at one of the many technical colleges around the country.
However, in the past TVET colleges have been accused of producing sub par graduates who do not posses the skills required by industry.
As a result the TVET sector in partnership with government has now called on industry to “take the lead” in the skills development and training of young people in order to fill the growing gap.
The TVET sector has always focused on giving students practical experience, but through CoS there is a greater emphasis on developing artisans who have on-the-job work experience and placement after graduation.
But the production of quality graduates is not the only challenge TVET colleges face.
According to Business Unity South Africa there is a view that training artisans is just a cost-burden.
Fears that apprentices will leave the company, once training is complete, is a very real barrier to engaging industry in the development of artisans. CoS aims to address this concern by supplying benefits to companies who choose to participate in the pilot programme. Through Seta funding, tax breaks and other support industry leaders are expected to profit from their investment in the CoS campaign.