Vocational education: an inlet to solving SA’s skills crisis


South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world (at 55.9%). SA’s working population (labour absorption rate) is also unfortunately on the decline. Various factors are at play, but a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) flags the need to address skills imbalances.

One of the report’s key recommendations is to better align the vocational education system with the needs of the workplace. Vocational education consists of a wide variety of qualifications, which are offered by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) or private colleges. Curro now offers the NCV in a school-based environment as an alternative to completing the National Senior Certificate (NSC) or matric.

The minimum entry requirement for an NCV is an NQF level 1 qualification or Grade 9 pass. Learners can now choose to study the NCV after completing Grade 9, allowing them to specialise in a field of study earlier and learn skills required to ensure that they are employable upon completing NCV level 4.

Stoffel Goosen, Head: Organisational Development at Curro, South Africa’s largest independent school operator, believes that the NCV can play a meaningful role in addressing skills shortages, and thus in targeting youth unemployment. The problem, he says, is that not many people are aware of the NCV as a qualification. “We’ve spoken to many parents who assume NCV is only for those interested in learning trades – to become artisans – or for learners who have failed matric. This is not true.”

“Another misconception about NCV is that it’s easier than the NSC curriculum and has been designed for ‘non-academic’ learners. Again, not true,” Goosen says. “The qualification is of a high standard, the curricula are industry-aligned, and pass requirements are as stringent as the NSC. Learners are required to gain both practical and theoretical knowledge and demonstrate competency rather than simply understand what it requires to become competent.”

Goosen believes that vocational education can help to fill South Africa’s skill gaps, boost productivity and business growth, and increase employment. “The reality is that a university degree is no longer a guarantee that you’ll get a job,” he says. “South Africa needs to solve its skills crisis, and the NCV can be part of teaching learners real-world skills that they can put to work immediately in their chosen field. And, for those who complete their NCV qualification to the highest level, further tertiary education, including university is still an option.”