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SA aims for more graduates and artisans

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has highlighted a number of government initiatives to boost the number and quality of university and college graduates and artisans in South Africa.

Briefing journalists in Cape Town on Tuesday, Nzimande said a shortage of skills remained one of the country’s biggest hurdles to economic growth and job creation.

The government’s new economic growth path, launched last week, highlights the shortage of skilled artisans, workers and professionals as a key constraint to reducing South Africa’s unemployment rate from 25 percent to 15 percent by 2020.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande

Nzimande said key initiatives of his department to tackle skills included:

* A review to improve the country’s Further Education and Training (FET) colleges.
* A career guidance programme for students.
* A standards body to improve the quality of artisans.
* Improved funding for disadvantaged students.
* A new strategy for teacher training and development.

Flanked by the department’s newly appointed deputy minister, Hlengiwe Mkhize, Nzimande told journalists that he had signed off the new teacher training and development strategy, which was crafted from resolutions made at a teacher training summit in 2009.

The strategy was now available for public comment, he said, adding that increasing the quality and number of teachers was a key focus area for President Jacob Zuma.

FET colleges

Turning to South Africa’s Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, Nzimande said these had to become into colleges of choice rather than “dumping grounds” for those that could not make it into technical universities or universities.

Nzimande said a key obstacle was that a FET college qualification did not guarantee entrance into a university.

The department would also work very closely with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to arrest and close down unregistered, fly-by-night colleges.

“We are going to be intensifying this, because fly-by-nights are exploiting the desperate needs of the majority of our people for access to education and training, and then giving them courses that are of such low quality.”

Career guidance

He said the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) had set up a helpline to advise students on career guidance. The department was also in discussions with the SABC on the possibility of setting aside certain time slots on their radio stations to offer career guidance sessions.

He said he had also asked the SAQA to work more effectively with schools to publicise the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and to look at ways to assist with career guidance.

The department was reviewing the scheme, which Nzimande said would inevitably involve some recapitalisation and better ways to fund disabled students.

He said one of the reasons for the high drop-out rates was that the scheme often did not cover enough students or all the needs of students. An announcement on the review would be made later this month, he said.


Nzimande said his department was also looking at setting up a central application system, to which all students could apply, to gain entrance to any university or college.

He believed that such a system, coupled with career guidance centres, would help to see more university and college students complete their studies.

Artisans

To address the quality of artisans, the Department of Higher Education would set up the National Artisan Moderating Body.

The problem was particularly pressing, as the average age of an artisan was now 50 years old, and in little over a decade most will have retired, he said.

Student community service

Commenting on the proposal to have students complete community service before graduating, Nzimande said he expected the bulk of this review to be carried out next year.

He said that, following the resolution of the ANC’s national general council to look into the proposal, the department would study the community service in place for doctors, as well as best case practices from across the world.


“We are of the view as a department that this is very very important,” said Nzimande, who pointed out that such a system could address two kinds of problems.

While it could help to provide work experience for the some 50 000 unemployed graduates, it could also address the shortage of skills, particularly at rural municipalities, he said.

Source: BuaNews, foundation4.com, symposiumc6.com, design-flute.com, interiorsandsources.com

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Access to FET colleges need to increase

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande

Access to Further Education and Training (FET) colleges need to expand to meet the demand for increased training opportunities, says Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

“Enrollment at FET colleges must be expanded substantially if we are to come anywhere close to meeting both the need for mid-level skills and the demand from youth for increased training opportunities,” Nzimande said at the National Skills Summit on Thursday.

Nzimande said that while the department was mindful of the need to maintain and improve the quality of education and training, they must also be bold in expanding enrolment of such opportunities without compromising quality.

He said South Africa currently suffers from high unemployment and a shortage of critical skills needed to drive economic growth and social development.

“The skills shortage underpins many of the challenges government faces with regard to service delivery, the expansion of decent work and social justice.

“There is both anecdotal and empirical evidence of skills shortage in a number of occupations and economic sectors within South Africa. It is clear that there is a tangible problem arising from the mismatch between the supply and demand for skills in the South African labour market,” Nzimande said.

He announced that in a few weeks, the National Skills Development Strategy III, the overarching strategic instrument for skills development will be implemented to guide sector planning for the next five years.

The two-day summit brought together all relevant constituencies and stakeholders for a consultative engagement on the skills challenge, including the mismatch between the supply of and demand for skills in the labour market.

Among the issues to be discussed at the summit are the minister’s performance agreement which include the establishment of a credible institutional mechanism for skills planning, increase access to intermediate and high level learning for youth and adults, who do not meet entry requirement for post school programmes.

The outputs will also include increased access to occupationally directed programmes in needed areas with special focus on artisan training, increase access to high level skills in target areas such as in the fields of engineering, animal and health sciences, physical and life sciences and teacher education as well as research, development and innovation in human capital for a growing knowledge economy.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who chairs the Human Resource Development Council, will in the evening outline government’s systematic response to the country’s skills challenge.

Source: BuaNews, idc.co.za, ucf.org.za,

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New chapter for SA’s colleges and Setas

In a bid to close South Africa’s skills gap, the country’s colleges and sector education and training authorities – both now under the Department of Education – are to work closely together to increase college enrolment and place college students in workplace programmes.

Speaking in Cape Town this week, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said his department had taken over control of the country’s Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) from the Department of Labour.

He said that while it was business as usual at the Setas, the greatest weakness in South Africa’s skills development system was the lack of alignment between the country’s Further Education and Training FET colleges and Setas.

“That is what really requires a big improvement,” said Nzimande, adding that the National Board of FET colleges and the department would carry out an urgent national audit on the various institutions’ governance and administration.

The audit would also look at whether there were colleges that needed assistance on quality assurance.

 

Institutions of choice

Nzimande said challenging work lay ahead to make FET colleges institutions of choice for more young people and adults.

“The shape of our post-secondary system is not appropriately balanced between universities and colleges, and while access to universities must be increased, enrolment in colleges must double in the next five years,” he said.

The department was also looking at better aligning the needs and provisions of training and skills development and would be looking at developing better research so that data on such things as skills shortage could be readily available, he said.

Setas were mandated to spend R16-billion and training, with the National Skills Fund making available a further R5-billion.

“Our commitment is on really strengthening the Setas and that they are accountable and able to spend this money in a systematic way,” he said.

Commenting on the government’s R2.4-billion training layoff scheme, Nzimande said the department would monitor Setas that were carrying out training under the scheme, to ensure that “each and every rand and cent is well spent”.

Continued government support

Debate has raged for some time over whether the country’s 23 Setas were responding adequately to SA’s skills challenge, and Nzimande pointed out that he didn’t believe that there was any need to scrap any of the Setas at present.

“I don’t buy this idea that just because there are problems with these Setas that we don’t need them,” he said.

Nzimande said a skills development summit was being planned for first half of 2010 that would look at questions such as whether the number of Setas should be scaled down or not.

He said that, although the Setas continued to face challenges, the government was committed to keeping them.

“We think they are the best vehicles we have at the moment.”

Source: BuaNews

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Idle minds and hands a social time bomb

Nearly three million of the 6.7 million young South Africans in the 18-to-24-year age group were unemployed or not receiving education and training in 2007 – and they pose a threat of “serious social disruption”. These facts have been revealed by research funded by the Ford Foundation and undertaken by the Cape-based Centre for Higher Education Transformation and the University of the Western Cape’s Further Education and Training Institute.

Youthful protesters have been central to a current wave of service-delivery unrest around South Africa.

Conducted last year using Statistics South Africa’s 2007 Community Survey and education department statistics, the study “Responding to the Educational Needs of Post-school Youth” says that of the 2.8-million who were unemployed and not in education institutions, 44% were African and 41% coloured (mixed race).

Reasons for young people not being in education or jobs include:

* Lack of a diverse post-school public or private college sector.
* Reduction in educational opportunities because of institutional mergers.
* Failure of sector education and training authorities to provide ­adequate learnerships.
* Less labour market absorption because the government is not meeting its target of 6% annual economic growth.
* The uncontrolled introduction of more than two million relatively well-educated foreign workers into the labour market.

John Butler-Adam of the Ford Foundation speculated that most idle youngsters are “at home, or wandering the streets, or both. Joining gangs will be an option – a social security blanket” – and crime is an option.

“They could be a social time bomb and could start taking social action. They are a lost generation and need to be found,” he said, referring to recent looting by beleaguered unemployed people at a protest in Durban.

The study examined attendance at educational institutions in the 18-to-24-year age group for 1996, 2001 and 2007. While South Africa’s population grew and more learners were studying, in real terms there was a decline in the number attending educational institutions.

While 46% of 21-year-olds were studying in 1996, this dropped to 36% in 2001 and 32% in 2007. At the same time, the number of learners in secondary schools has grown. In 2007, 508,600 youths had not reached grade 10, and almost a million left school after completing grade 10.

“This is not only an enormous waste of educational resources, but it is also the group that seems the most vulnerable to unemployment,” the study points out, adding that “the decrease in participation [in educational institutions] for the 18-to-24-year age group severely affects the life opportunities of young people”.

Butler-Adam believes learners could be dropping out before reaching grade 10 for financial reasons, or because they are “frustrated that schools are not serving them well”.

Pointing out that the number of unemployed youths not receiving education or training has increased since 2007, he warned that the number will continue to grow each year as young people leave school without completing grade 12, as grade 12 leavers fail to find jobs or gain access to universities, and as university students drop out.

The report of the study argues for the expansion of educational and training and internship opportunities and special youth-service programmes. In particular it recommends that the existing Further Education and Training (FET) vocational college sector be enlarged and strengthened.

One option is for some FET colleges to be franchised by universities to offer programmes and award credits towards university degrees. Seamus Needham of the University of the Western Cape said public FET colleges are running three-year programmes, but learners needed to earn an income. “It’s not a realistic option,” he said, adding that shorter courses are needed.

Butler-Adam agreed that a wider range of educational institutions is required to absorb the youth. But he said: “We can’t afford to continue like this. We need people with skills, who pay taxes and strengthen and enrich society.”

Source: universityworldnews.com, cbc.ca, transcrim.org

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USA – SA Education Partnership

The United States has partnered with South Africa to strengthen academic programmes, skills development and student support at 12 selected further education and training (FET) colleges in the country.

The US-South Africa Partnership for Skills Development, which brings together South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training and the United States Agency for International Development, was launched in Waterberg in Limpopo province this week.

The US$6.7-million (about R49.1-million) programme, which will operate over a three years at FET colleges in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, will be implemented by the American Council on Education and American Association of Community Colleges.

The programme will work to strengthen the FET college sector’s institutional capacity in student support services programmes. It will offer a wide range of professional development programmes for college lecturers, while providing consultative support through partnerships with the private sector and exchange opportunities with US colleges and universities.

Transforming education

The programme will build on past US and South African government cooperative efforts to strengthen the role of FET colleges to help train and provide employment opportunities for South Africa’s underemployed, particularly those under the age of 25.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to help build new bridges between the US and South African higher education communities, and in doing so, help South Africa tap into lessons learned from US community colleges to expand the learning opportunities for disadvantaged youth,” the American Council of Education’s Madeleine Green said in a statement.

Community colleges are the largest and fastest growing sector of higher education in the US, enrolling close to half (46%) of all undergraduates.

“We hope that this collaboration will help the South African FET colleges transform the way education and services are delivered to students and establish new relationships with their communities,” added the American Association of Community Colleges’ James McKenney.

‘Key institutions’

In his State of the Nation Address earlier this year, President Jacob Zuma identified FET colleges as primary sites for skills development over the next five years.

In addition, FET colleges have been identified as key to broadening post-school education and training opportunities.

THANK YOU USAID!!!!!

Source: buanews.gov.za, southafrica.info, usaid.gov

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