For one million young South Africans like Lotsolatile, vocational and skills training offers an opportunity to upgrade skills and pursue new career pathways every year . Lotsolatile, a 19-year-old, is a first-year student studying Electrical engineering (an N3 course)* at a college in Bloemfontein (in the Free State). He says “the reason I decided to go to a TVET college is because… [I] couldn’t just sit around”. He received a bursary from his college for two years, which is enabling him to focus on studying, without having to worry about finances.
South Africa has 50 public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges with more than 250 campuses providing this essential opportunity across both rural and urban areas of the country . TVET colleges offer a wide range of courses, which open doors to careers in technical and artisanal fields. Three broad categories of qualifications and partial-qualifications are offered: The National Certificate (Vocational) (NC(V)), the National Technical Education programmes (NATED certificates) and occupational qualifications. There are six opportunities for students to enrol in the year and it depends on the course they want to do. You can also find a course that suits you because courses are in modules and offered in different ways -part-time or full time, via evening classes or via distance learning.
The option to choose how to take classes allows young people like Rebecca*** to look for a part-time job to support her family while she studies. Rebecca is studying electrical engineering at a TVET college in Vhembe, Limpopo. Even though Rebecca is studying through a NSFAS bursary, she needs to get a job because of the financial responsibilities she faces at home. Engineering Study programmes require a minimum of 24 months (2 670 hours) of applicable work experience or a relevant trade test certificate to obtain the National N Diploma2. So Rebecca will have the opportunity to get significant hands-on professional work experience as a part of her studies. This will increase her chances of finding a full-time job after studying.
However, as important as these work-based learning opportunities are, some students report struggling to find these placements. Based on the conversations we have had with young people, one of the key areas students want TVETs to improve in is to ensure that these placements are secured and introductions to further employment opportunities are made. When asked what is good about studying at a TVET college Lotsolatile said “there are some good lecturers there”.
Thandeka*** is a 26-year-old from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape who shared her story with Youth Capital. She told us that she has been looking for work for the past six years. She originally left school in Grade 9 due to the challenges she was facing in her life but pursued studying at college for a year. Unfortunately, she struggled to afford the fees and ended up having to drop out. She was studying to become an architectural draftsperson** and is now determined to try again, “I need to fezekisa [fullfill] my dreams. I need a second chance to finish my studies”. Speaking about what is good about studying at a TVET college she says, “It is good to study at a TVET College because I get theory and practical [experience]”.
TVET colleges offer a great opportunity to gain the specific skills that are in high demand in the economy and students seem to particularly enjoy the practical aspects of the courses. NSFAS, as well as the colleges themselves, offer many bursary opportunities to make sure as many students as possible have access to study opportunities.
Are you currently studying at a TVET or have you studied at a TVET in the past? If you have a story to share about your TVET experience (good or bad!) – we’d love to hear from you!
* If you are interested in learning more about studying electrical engineering check out www.gostudy.net/sa/occupation/electrical-engineer
** If you are interested in learning more about careers in Architectural draughting and technical design check out www.gostudy.net/occupation/draughtsperson
*** individuals’ names have been changed for anonymity.
1. DNA Economics. Performance and Expenditure Review: Technical and Vocational Education and Training. (2016).
2. Department of Higher Education. Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa (2017)