I would like to respond to Des Squire’s thought-provoking comments.
Firstly, I do not think that yet another vocational institution needs to be introduced to an already totally confused public. I agree that South Africans are title- and status-behep and that to be able to tell people that they were at a university of any kind, vocational or not, would most probably thrill the person to bits, but universities are really for academics and vocational learning should take place elsewhere, like at an FET college, private or public, or even at a University of Technology, depending on the type of skill required.
Secondly, I believe that FET could do with new branding, but nationally and that all the regional colleges should support the national brand. After all, there are 50 FET colleges nationally but they need to share ONE brand so that you at least know what an FET college is. In the Western Cape, the provincial brand is excellent. The six colleges work together in a Marketing and Corporate Communications Forum (the first regional forum in the country, established in the early 1990s), which meets regularly and has a shared budget and which tackles joint campaigns like an Open Day , newspaper ads etc. Their aim is to create and maintain a recognisable and positive brand, but there is no national brand despite numerous attempts to have one. Other provinces have also followed suit, but once again, there should still be a national brand sending out the same strong, recognisable message and binding all 50 colleges together into one sector: the pubic FET sector.
I am busy organising an FET leadership symposium at Stellenbosch University and would like national participation. For this, I need a good database of all 50 FET college. In my efforts to compile such a list, I have been amazed, for instance, at how different the email addresses are. It is a complete hodgepodge of @feta, @whatever the college name is, or even @yahoo.co.za, @telkomsa.net, @gmail.com/ xyz.co.za/xyz.edu.za/ xyz.gov.za etc. All universities are @with the university initials like ufs, ju, sun, nmmu, uwc etc. followed by .ac.za. All the same pattern. As simple as that and the institution is instantly reconisable.
Finally, the worst is that most colleges nationally do not realise the importance that the frontline person in an organisation plays in the branding exercise, namely the receptionist. It is your first contact with the college and is actually the face of the college and forms your first impression. Phones rang constantly without being answered (especially after 15:00) or else answered in the most unprofessional way by someone who has hardly mastered English and the caller has to repeat “I’m sorry I can’t understand you” to the point of embarrassment and the person answering seldom has the right information such as even the name of the CEO (!!!) or an email address. The person also thinks nothing of breathing heavily and nasally into the mouthpiece while making a desperate search either for someone who might know (this was not offered but usually requested by me) or a piece of paper that could inform her or even puts you through to a totally wrong extension where that poor innocent has to sort out the problem (and you, the caller have to repeat your enquiry for the umpteenth time). These people are obviously not trained and many are “standing in” while the actual incumbent is “out to lunch, so please phone again later, say after 14:00”, which you may as well do tomorrow morning as 14:00 is often not 14:00. It all made such a bad impression and I was left thinking that it is small wonder that people think public FETs are useless and incapable of running a decent organisation! Harsh words indeed! But I was thoroughly disillusioned! Branding is not only visual – it needs to support the entire organisational culture or else it is simply window dressing!