Colleges central to delivery of priority skills

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Further Education and Training colleges are central to the delivery of priority skills needed in South Africa, according to the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor.

Pandor was addressing the fourth FET college's achiever awards ceremony organised by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) in Cape Town.

"This award ceremony is held at a time when the expectations and pressure for the expanded delivery of vocational education in South Africa, in Africa and worldwide has never been higher," she said.

She said that FET colleges were central to the delivery of priority skills needed to ensure access and participation in the country's growing economy. FET colleges are changing to meet these needs.

"Having merged 150 technical colleges into 50 FET colleges with multiple sites over the past five years, we need to ensure that they offer excellent programmes and training to their students."

The government has committed R1,9 billion over five years to recapitalise FET colleges across the country. The project in the Western Cape so far has included upgrading 40 campus sites, 96 classrooms and 23 student resource centres and the construction of three computer laboratories.

South Africa has introduced new National Certificate (Vocational) (NC [V]) programmes that will replace the old Nated programmes. The Western Cape has introduced 11 new vocational programmes this year, specifically designed to meet the needs of the local economy, as part of this initiative. Students following the programmes can progress to higher education, employment, or become entrepreneurs.

The Treasury has set aside R600 million over three years for the Department of Education FET colleges Bursary Scheme to improve access to FET. FET colleges are administering the bursaries. Over 12 500 students registered at NC (V) Level 2 have been awarded bursaries, Ms Pandor said. This is almost half of the students registered for NC (V) programmes at FET colleges in 2007. More than 1 500 out of 3 222 NC (V) students in the Western Cape have received bursaries.

Ms Pandor thanked all role players for ensuring the success of FET colleges, including lecturers, staff, donors and sponsors, both locally and internationally. FET colleges "are ready to play a dynamic role in closing then skills gaps in South Africa, in offering young people real opportunities to learn new skills and to create new jobs and establish their own enterprises."

The objectives of the FET Achiever of the Year Awards are to recognise and reward excellence, commitment dedication, hard work and achievement. They recognise best practice in the various categories of the awards.

The following FET college staff members received awards:

Lecturers of the year:

* Fundamental Studies: Rogan Pedro, West Coast College, Vredendal Campus

* General Studies: Catherine Conradie, South Cape College, George Campus

* Business Studies: Chaleen October, Boland College, Paarl Campus

* Engineering Studies: Frans Jooste, Boland College, Worcester Campus

Support staff of the year:

* General Assistance and Maintenance: Johan Uys, Factotum, South Cape College, George Campus

* Administration: Tersia Pool: Learner Support Co-ordinator, Boland College, Caledon Campus

Managers of the year:

* Academic: Pat Lawrence, Head of Department, Electrical Division, Northlink College, Belhar

* Campus Support Services: Esna Barnard, Campus Manager, West Coast College, Vredendal Campus

* Social Responsibility Project of the year: Northlink College

* Innovative Project of the year: College of Cape Town

* Excellence in Leadership: Ebrahim Peters, Senior Manager, Engineering Studies, Northlink College, Bellville Campus

* Lifetime Achievement: the late Jan Bester, Retired Senior Deputy Principal, College of Cape Town, City Campus