Understanding and highlighting skills shortages and the role of FET colleges 19

In a recent article published by Solidarity they pointed out the need for our youth to consider attending FET colleges. Further Education and Training Colleges or FET colleges are different to universities in that they offer many of the essential courses to ensure the achievement of the skills and training needed that are essential to the South African Economy.

South Africa is in need of Educated, qualified and experience people with the right skills to assist in growing the economy of SA.

Currently there are in excess of 500000 positions vacant in South Africa but surprisingly, according to solidarity, there are insufficient trained and qualified people to fill these vacancies.

Consider these facts
South Africa has 1 engineer for every 3200 people compared to 1 for every 130 in china- 250 in Europe and 450 in Australia.
The government’s list of scarce and critical skills shows that there is a shortage of 400000 teachers in all subjects which includes teachers at FET colleges.
In 2008 there was a shortage of 22000 accounting specialists – 5300 of whom should be chartered accountants. There are 70000 positions available in Information Technology but only 17000 learners have qualified over the last 10 years.
There is a need for 30000 registered nurses and 10000 pharmacy assistants.

So why are more of our learners not applying for positions at FET colleges? Is it a lack of information or is there a stigma attached to them? Only the youth can comment on this.

Further education and training takes place at any time from grades 10 to 12. At this level there is a need for career counselling and orientation or our youth should be encouraged to approach FET Colleges for more information. At this level it is quite common for learners to want to study for a diploma or certificate course. Diplomas and Certificates should not as far as I am concerned be offered by Universities or studied by Higher Education Candidates.

The Department of Education is offering bursaries for FET college education and training. In addition the Career Advice Services managed by SAQA is offering career advice through its helpline. Call 0860111673 or you can e-mail help@careerhelp.org.za. You can also send and SMS to 072 204 5056 and an advisor will call you back.

Des Squire (Managing Member)



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About Des Squire

I specialise in Employment Equity and Skills Development issues. Qualified facilitator, assessor, moderator, verifier and SDF. Available for any related assignments and or freelance work. If ou have a need let's meet to discuss. Quotes for training on request.

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19 thoughts on “Understanding and highlighting skills shortages and the role of FET colleges

  • Wilma de Villiers

    I agree with Martha about the NCV courses.  Students prefer to enroll for the SAQA-accredited Early Childhood Development courses, because it qualifies them in a specific are of employment.  It also gives them access to Higher Education (some training providers).  The NCV Education & Training (3 years) is a general qualification and will give you access to a Level 5 course, but it does not qualify your for a specific career.

  • Des Squire Post author

    Hi Martha and Dr Nick

    I agree that some of the learns do ot want to go to FET colleges because of the curriculum as you indicate however my belief is that it is the negative STIGMA attached to FET colleges that poses a greater problem. In addition there is insufficient information related to FET Collegesd available.

    If you just take this site for instance how many FET colleges have posted any discussion, debate, curriculum information or even simple information like contacts for FET Colleges. How many FET colleges are promoting themselves as Education Institutes of Choice?????

    If you and Dr Nick feel strongly about this issue then you should make some comments on the “Green paper on Post School Education” on this site also.      

  • Martha Hlapa

    I share Dr. Nic’s centiment, most of the learners do not want to go to FET colleges after matric because of the NCV curricula, moreover if the do not have subjects like Maths & Science.  They feel like they are wasting three  years with something that is equivalent to matric that they have already passed.  The department has to do something about this.

  • Des Squire Post author

    Latest Developments:

    [This Act (Manpower Training Act) is repealed by the Skills Development Act, 1998] 

    This Act has been amended by Notice No. R. 808 in Government Gazette No. 23507 dated 14 June 2002, and Notice No. R. 851 in Government Gazette No. 29134 dated 25 August 2006.

  • David Seomanele Mashishi

    Hi Des. As always you have been very resourceful on matters of training. The issue of establishment and running an FET college has recently been of interest to me. I would love to engage with you further and if possible enlist your advisory services. Please drop me an email at smashishi@sacord.co.za so that we could have an appointment for a formal discussions. 

  • Des Squire Post author

     A little more on FET colleges in response to Dr Nic J van Neveling 

    For Skills Development Training the Further Education and Training Colleges mentioned previously are the way to go. There are +/- 50 colleges and over 250 campuses throughout the country. In addition there is a selection or either Public or Private colleges as mentioned previously. 

    There are predominantly two types of programmes on offer by FET colleges. They are vocational and occupational. These programmes are intended to assist students and to provide them with the skills necessary for their future career.

     Occupational programmes include both skills programmes and Learnerships which are offered by FET colleges and accredited private providers. These programmes are intended to equip the learners for formal employment. These occupational courses should offer both theoretical and practical knowledge and experience.

    If you are the type of person who is desirous of starting your own business or you would just like to study for a specific trade then this is an ideal option for you. I am a firm believer in qualifying for a trade before considering a university degree.   

  • Des Squire Post author

    In response to Dr. Lourens Ferreira’ s question below related to Registration and Accreditation

    FET colleges are required to deliver education and training that meets a required standard that falls within the guidelines of the appropriate Quality Assurance Bodies. In the case of FET colleges these bodies are the Department of Higher Education and Training and/or Umalusi. This accreditation is vital as it ensures the qualifications offered fall within and comply with the national guidelines. It also ensure that you, the learner can have your qualification registered on the National Learner Database – this registration will remain with you for the rest of your life and can be easily verified by local and International bodies.

    Umalusi accredits Private FET colleges and the Department of Education registers the Public FET Colleges. So these are the certificates you must ask to see as previously mentioned. All FET colleges therefore must be registered and/or accredited by one of the other. If not then the college is operating illegally and should be reported.

    In addition Umalusi oversees the accreditation of examination bodies that examine qualifications offered by both public and private colleges.

    Accreditation is provided in respect of certain (South African Qualifications Authority) SAQA registered qualifications that form part of the National Qualifications Framework or the NQF. All such qualifications are quality checked and quality assured by the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) or Umalusi.

    Some colleges believe that if they are registered and accredited by the SETA then they can offer full qualifications. THAT IS NOT THE CASE. They must be registered by Umalusi or the Department of Higher Education. Be very careful.

    As for the step by step process i suggest you start with the relevant SETA and they can guide you from there.

  • Des Squire Post author

    Here is some up to date information on Bursaries and loans

    The national Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)  is a government agency that has been set up to assist students in terms of the NSFAS Act of 1999. 

    Its main function is to provide loans and bursaries to deserving students who need financial assistance to pay for their studies at Public FET Colleges and Public Universities.

    Note I say “deserving students”, in other words you do not automatically qualify for such loans and bursaries.

    I also said “Public FET Colleges and Public Universities” which means students at “Private FET Colleges” and/or Private Universities do not qualify.  

    Any learner can apply wo is 

          A South African Citizen

          Enrolled for undergraduate studies

          Registered at a Public FET or University

          Have a household income of less than R122000 per annum

          If the parents are not employed the learner must must submit an affidavit (sworn Statement) to that effect 

    The funds if granted will be paid directly to the institution of learning and will not be paid to you directly. When you start earning in excess of R30000 per annum you will be expected to repay this loan.

    Learners should follow this process

          Apply to the institution of learning for admission. It is IMPORTANT to check with them on their specific processes and specific requirements

          For any queries contact the financial aid office at the university or college campus.

    Contact NSFAS at 021 763 3232 or SMS your questions to 32261 or e-mail them at info@nsfas.org.za 

    If a learener want to become a teacher they should look at the following website http://www.funzalushaka.doe.gov.za

  • albert masiloane

    I have to agree with Dr Nic, am a student at unisa studying survey, completed N6 electrical and with mechanical eng module from university of johannesburg, the problem with N course is companies require exp of which most students spend 4 years looking for an apprentice very few make it in less than that period and what happens after qualifying to be artisans? Thats it! ! FET students are trapped in a simple software, one cannot see themself sitting for a GCC. Its even worse when the student doesnt get an apprentice, because companies do not N6 students for internships and the goverment its self.

  • Wilma de Villiers

    I am busy with a masters, Adult Education & Globalisation.  Currently we are busy with a module, “Work and Learning’.  We have many readings and discussions around the topic of skills and education.  If you google “Hugh Lauder” and “Elaine Wood” you will find interesting articles and video-clips on ‘you-tube’ that link to this topic.

  • Dr. Nic J Neveling

    Des, I read your document.  I would have liked to see that you say more about the FET Colleges than what you did.  Sure Gr 10-12 falls in the FET band, and this is exactly where the problem starts.  The FEt Colleges also operates in the same band.  They offer the NCV currucula, and this is what is happening:  a student does gr 12, what must he/she do at a FET college.  There is nothing but going back to level 2, which by the way is equivalant to Gr10.  The FET College do start the learners at level 2 even if they have Gr12.  Fortunately the dept has brought back the NATED (N) courses, now learners can advance to N6.  The N6 diploma is on NQF6.  Unfortunately the dept does not advertise this.  Mum is the word from them.


  • David Screen

    Interesting Des, But isn’t it amazing how we go over the same ground year after year! The scarce skills shortage in South Africa grows annually and every year there’s another conference or a call from Government for schools, business whatever to get involved, but nobody ever does anything! And that I believe is where the greatest problem lie – the skills shortage and lack of capacity lies exactly in the domains that should be driving the process – in government and in business. In business I believe it’s a lack of will and in Goverment it’s plain incapacity.

    i have solutions but maybe some feedback first.    

  • Dr. Deon Landmann


    Thank you for your interesting articles and insight! I enjoy reading them. today I have a favour to ask: May I use some of your stats (with reference to you) in our newsletter?

    I am the Education, Training & Transformation officer at the GMBA.

    Kind regards,


  • Thulisile Madela

    It’s a good thing that government is offering bursaries for FET colleges but it doesn’t end there, what about training centres where they should complete their careers as artisans, at my work we’ve been waiting for bursaries from services seta for more than 18 months now, we don’t know whats taking so long, we have all the accreditation they asked for and we’ve worked with them before successfully but now getting the bursaries from them is 1 hell of a job

  • Dr. Lourens Ferreira

    Hi , Can someone please help me with the following questions from a PRIVATE COLLEGE who want to start implementing SETA LEVEL 1 courses.

    1. Where must they start to register as ET provider?  With HET , Umalusi, SETA’s, QCTO, SAQA . Which one ?
    2. What procedures must they follow, what is the first step , second, third  etc.  
    3. How long will all take before they can start training?
    4. How must will all this cost them to set up and run ?