Incredible technological advancements comparable to those of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions have opened a new chapter in the history of humanity.
These developments are integrating the physical, digital, and biological worlds in ways that provide enormous promise as well as a possible danger.
Since Higher Education forms a crucial part of a country’s developed labour market, being prepared for a fundamental change at this scale is as important for higher learning institutions such as TVET colleges.
According to Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, in TVET colleges, a multi-pronged strategy for skill development that is in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has been established.
The initial strategy involves locating ten TVET colleges with established 4IR Centers of Excellence. These TVET colleges were chosen by the Department of Higher Education and Training as well as the Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority to construct 4IR Centres of Excellence, from which 4IR-aligned skills training will be delivered.
The names of the 10 TVET colleges, the four IR areas each has chosen to concentrate on, and the development made thus far are listed below:
- Ehlanzeni TVET College’s area of focus is in 3D printing, Internet of Things, robotics, and Networking was launched on 6 October 2022 and 90% of the centre has so far been completed.
- Goldfields TVET College, which is primarily focused on Cyber Security has also been able to finish 100% of its centre since its launch on 10 November 2022.
- Ikhala TVET College whose focus area is on the Recognition of Prior Learning; and use of the Learning Management System has completed 60% of its 4IR centre for excellence.
- Lephalale TVET College is focused on Robotics, coding, Artificial Intelligence; 3D printing, the Internet of Things, networking, and growing interest in Cyber Security will be launched on 30 November 2022.
- Northern Cape Urban TVET College whose area of focus is on Renewable Energy, IT Linguistics; Welding; Drone simulation, and 3D Printing is 25% completed
- Umgungundlovu TVET College is 60% complete and its focus is on the Recognition of Prior Learning; and the use of the Learning Management System.
- Vhembe TVET College has been 100% completed and was launched on 11 August 2022. They primarily focus on Robotics (Bionic and Microcontrollers); Industrial Robotics; Mobile Robotics; Automation Technology; Intelligent Components; Industry 4.0 Systems; and Cyber security.
- The 4IR centre for excellence at Vuselela TVET College is 95% complete and was launched to focus on Artificial Intelligence Robots; House Automation technology; 3D Printing technology; and Virtual Reality technology
- West Coast TVET College is so far managed to complete 25% of its 4IR centre which focuses on Coding, 3D printing; artificial intelligence; and robotics.
- The 4IR centre at Western TVET College, which focuses on Welding robots (raspberry pi, Arduino); CNC machining & 3D printing; PLCs; Drone simulation; and Software simulation is 90% completed and is due to be launched on 07 December 2022
Nzimande also went on to say that an R10 million 4IR Centre of Excellence is being established through a partnership between the Ekurhuleni East TVET College, merSETA, and FESTO. The College is also contributing by providing the infrastructure. The building portion of the project is 80% complete. The planned start date for the skills training is April 2023.
The DHET’s second strategy is the establishment of Industry-Partnered Learning Factories spearheaded by the CSIR, the DSI, and merSETA. For an estimated cost of (c) R120 million, the merSETA plans to establish 18 Industry-Partnered Learning Factories (IPLFs), with two IPLFs in each province, to assist the growth of 4IR skills, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
This initiative, according to the department, aims to encourage the adoption of cutting-edge technology, these Learning Factories will also act as platforms for the up-and re-skilling of the industry workers through short courses.
As part of its third strategy, ICT Academies have been established in at least 22 TVET Colleges thanks to a partnership between the Department and HUAWEI.
These academies have provided 4IR-related courses in a three-level certification structure, including those on AI, Big Data, IoT, 5G, Cloud Computing, Routing and Switching, Security, WLAN, and Storage. 51 instructors and 261 students have received training through these programmes.