Higher Education and Training Minister Dr. Naledi Pandor opened the Centres of Specialisation (CoS) in the Western Cape at the False Bay TVET College Khayelitsha Campus.
The celebratory occasion brought together the 6 Western Cape TVET Colleges who specialise in eight of the thirteen COS trades.
The TVET Colleges in the province with Centres of Specialisation are the False Bay College for Mechanical Fitting and Rigging; College of Cape Town for Auto Mechanics and Plumbing; Boland College for Welding; South Cape College for Bricklaying; Northlink College for Fitting and Turning; and West Coast College for Pipefitting.
Special guests included Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, Acting Regional Manager for the Department of Higher Education and Training, Mr Cassie Kruger and Spokesperson for the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa, Mr Kaizer Nyatsumba.
In Minister Pandor’s keynote address, she said that the Centres of Specialisation are important for a number of reasons; to train artisans for trades that are in demand; to place colleges in better partnerships with employers; to build a better apprenticeship system; and to lay the foundation for college differentiation.
Pandor went on to highlight that there were many problems in the education and training sector in the country and that investing in colleges and universities was a response to such challenges.
“The aim is to offer young people a range of education and training alternatives, including universities. The idea is to create a route to better skills and technical qualifications. We plan to improve quality and create diverse entry points to other institutions in post school education and training. The efforts directed at creating college and employer links are intended to ease the acquisition of work based skills for young trainees,” the Minister noted.
She emphasised that the programme benefitted from a close working relationship with various industry associations, which have helped to develop relevant and responsive curricula.
“The role of Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) in linking employers to the Centres of Specialisation Programme has ensured that all participating employers are guaranteed discretionary grants. Setas are beginning to integrate the Centres of Specialisation Programme into their planning and reporting system.”
“The collaboration breaks down the barriers between education institutions and industry and helps new employers to support the apprenticeship system.”
Dr. Pandor emphasised the importance of employers seeing the benefit of apprenticeships to their business and industry.
“This can’t just be about recouping the apprenticeship grant. If that’s the only motivation, then the whole initiative is doomed to failure. The Centres of Specialisation Programme is about helping employers to get the skills they need and to boost their productivity and helping young people fill the skills gaps in South Africa.”
“Our expectation is that apprentices enrolled in the Centres of Specialisation Programme will complete their trade tests and not only gain employment but also create employment by becoming artisan entrepreneurs and employing others.” she concluded.
False Bay TVET College Acting Principal, Ms Karin Hendricks said “We are excited to develop this journey along a dual system of training that blends components of the training at the institution with on-the-job work experience and application in a structured training model. We are dealing with a major skills shortage in our country and as we shared today, the Centres of Specialisation are focussing on the thirteen priority trades, where there are good employment prospects. This model of skills development is very critical for our country. We need to move away from importing skills and give our youth a fair chance to compete for jobs and become contributors to the growth of the economy.”
With over 150 registered apprentices in attendance, Minister Pandor gave special attention to them. She told them that whilst the Centres of Specialisation programme is a pilot programme, the successful implementation of this programme is their responsibility too. “Your success will pave the way for others to follow.” She encouraged the learners to remain focussed.
In her closing statement, Minister said “Looking at each and every one of you, you give me such fantastic inspiration that indeed South Africa will be a great country. If we just make sure that young people enjoy good opportunity, we are going to build an absolutely brilliant South Africa together.”