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. 



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.”

Goosen comments that the NCV is holistic in its offering as it still incorporates core academic subjects that learners need to take at school, such as Languages, Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy and Life Orientation. “There is such value in the NCV. Learners receive a skills focused, practical education and workplace experience while studying the NCV. Not only does this allow for employability post-qualification, but it also gives them a head start when pursuing further studies in their chosen fields.”

Goosen says that Curro is proud to be expanding its offering in 2020 to comprise three education models for high-school learners: the traditional NSC, Digi-Ed (a technology-driven education model) and the NCV. “We launched our NCV offering in 2019 with our pilot campus, Curro Holdings Ltd: Private College – Rivonia. Based on its success and the needs of the South African education system, we’re aiming to open another two campuses in 2020,” he says.

The Curro private college campuses will initially aim to offer the NCV in the following vocational fields:

· Finance, Economics & Accounting

· Information Technology & Computer Sciences

· Electrical Infrastructure Construction

· Engineering & Related Design

· Process Instrumentation

In order to do so, Curro must obtain registration from the Department of Higher Education and Training and accreditation from Umalusi. These processes are ongoing.

The Rivonia campus is currently offering two NCV programmes: Information Technology and Computer Sciences; and Finance, Economics and Accounting.

Curro’s mission is to provide a range of education options to make schooling accessible for every child. “The world is starting to acknowledge that the traditional school model is no longer the only effective means of education,” says Goosen. “Some learners know from a young age what their interests are and want to focus their learning around these to turn them into a career. An NCV is ideal for these learners, whether they want to become entrepreneurs or find work in a specific sector.”

For more information on Curro’s NCV offering, visit www.curro.co.za.