Do TVET Colleges have a role to play in alleviating pressure on universities? 11

There is a place for TVET colleges and there is a need for our youth to consider attending TVET colleges. TVET 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 TVET 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 TVET 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 TVET 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 as this only contributes to the overload in registrations at universities.  

The Department of Education is offering bursaries for TVET 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 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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11 thoughts on “Do TVET Colleges have a role to play in alleviating pressure on universities?

  • Tando Qeqe


    One of the portfolios I managed was Apprenticeship programme. The interesting findings after having spoken to employees in the plant during my operational problem solving training, was the amount of Min N 4-N 6 employees working as Operators had. Subsequently, the organisation offered Apprenticeship programme to the employees because of that potential.The number of employees who had between N4-N6 qualifications was over 180, in the following fields,( ie Mechanical/Electrical).

    Now the minimum requirement for Apprenticeship programme is N2, and you expert these guys to solve maintenance problems? What type of problem solving skills do you expect from them with Gr 7 Maths? I raised the bar by increasing minimum requirement to N5, whilst offering study allowance for N 4 employees to further their studies. What I had in mind in hindsight, the average age of an Artisan currently is over 55 years. Therefore, by having N5/N6 Apprentices, they will accumulate experience whilst having a firm knowledge based from their College theoretical knowledge. The benefits of that were, the Apprentices passed their Trade Test first time, in a way saving company money from re-testing.

    Where that led me to, not all students at TVET Colleges are the worst performers at school, but the inequality of education between Model C and township schools made TVET Colleges to be over-crowded with mixed students, including those failed by the system but capable to go to old Technikons but due to poor marks. 

    My call, a review of N2 as a minimum requirement for Apprenticeship should be reviewd, not be cast in stone. It was right then due to constraints of the early 60s. If we say now, Matric pass rate is above 70%, therefore it means there are potential Apprentices with Matric. In the time being, I won’t go to unpacking Matric results between ( Maths/Maths Lit/Science). 

    My conclusion is, raise the bar for minimum Apprenticeship requirement. 2ndly, organisations make funds available for those with N4 to further their studies till N6. Thereafter, consider them for old Technikon S1-S3 qualifications,and being following by BTech and further.  I know many guys who have gone that route, very long but lucrative in the end.

    Xolile Hane, I’m at your mercy if you need any contribution on Career guidance for our people.

    That’s my 1.5 cents worth.

  • Xolile Hans

    Thank You for all for your input in this matter as this is my challenge with our schooling system where you might find that motivating learners at Grade 9 to go to TVET is taking salaries from teachers who would lose learners that were supposed to go to grade 10 but now wishes to enter the technical arena and therefore affecting the numbers required for their school.

    We are gradually building relationships with the workplaces and are involved in advising learners and parents about the various options available to them in our Career Guidance workshops. 

  • Bernard Botha


    The reply by Xolile Hans caught my eye, that magical N6 once again.  Private (and public) TVET colleges market the Engineering studies N4 to N6 as a way to become an “engineer” in one the three popular fields, electrical, mechanical and civil.  What they conveniently forget to tell clients is that N6 is the pinnacle of apprentice studies which start at N1, N2 and N3. 

    Unfortunately N1 – N3 resorts under Umalusi as it is regarded as below grade 12 and very few private providers are prepared to pay the excessive accreditation fees for Umalusi; ideally N1 – N3 => N4 – N6 should fall under say NAMB but that is wishful thinking. 

    An apprentice has to pass all four subjects at N2 before he or she can sit for the trade test and hence very few bother to obtain N3.

    N4 to N6 are more advanced qualifications aimed at those artisans who want to operate as technicians and engineers.  As a percentage of starters at N1 about 2 % should eventually reach N6, that is after they completed the additional 18 month practical training.  In the past employers, such as Transnet, ESKOM, ISCOR, mining companies and similar took the top of the cream of their artisans and processed them through the system but nowadays everybody enrols for N6 without thinking about the way forward.

    Yes we need engineers and technicians but the greatest need is for artisans (such as Sylvia looking for a plumber).  These people are few and far between and are getting even less and even further between as young people are not interested in becoming artisans – their motto seems to be ‘we are all equal, and if one of us can become an engineer, then all of us are engineers’.

    I have tried to raise interest in what used to be called the ‘filing course’, I attended a technical high school and was told, before you can touch anything in the workshop, you have to learn to file.  Here is round piece of metal, file it square etc.  Ditto when I reported for national service at the Air Force, before you may touch a Harvard, you have to learn to file – here is a round piece of metal.  On joining (the later Telkom) – you may not touch any electronic equipment you must learn to file – here is a round piece of metal.

    I found very appropriate qualifications in ABET 4/NQF 01 level and tried to ‘sell’ it to some of the locals – their immediate reaction:  You are insulting the people by offering qualifications at such a low level, the training should be at least at NQF 04.  My answer to that:  Been there, have the T shirt; the entrants are not able to operate hammer, dril or read a tape measure but they want to qualify immediately.

    In one of the qualifications I found the following:

    This Qualification has been designed for use as an entry level for General Education and Training in all technical industries and is pitched at a very basic level, preparing learners for a career path in a technical field. The closest similarity found is the German ‘Berufsgrundbildungjahr’, which serves as a preparation year for entering into Apprenticeships.  My German is very limited but I understand it as ‘the year I lay the foundation for my career’. 

    One of the most neglected group of qualifications is the General Education and Training Certificate (in any field you care to mention) at NQF 01.  This forms the basis of all training and lays the foundation for further learning.

    Providers should make (or be forced to make) a paradigm shift and instead of offering training at TVET colleges – which produces learners who might have the theoretical knowledge but no useful skills and spend time and money on intermediate (ABET 4/NQF 01) training with minimal theory and heavy emphasis on practical work – the top products of these centres can then continue their studies at the TVET.

  • Kate Sani

    Dear Xolile.

    There are resources, established by DHET, which these learners should try:

    1. The National Artisan Development Support Centre or NADSC at the Ekurhuleni East FET College in Kwa-Thema Springs 

    2. Alternatively, learners can register online with NADSC for workbased exposure (

    3. A key mandate of SETAs is to support N6 graduates in internship placement and funding for their 18 months. It’s worth contacting them.

    4. Register on DHET’s iWIL online site (

    5. Post a request for assistance on the DHET’s Facebook page (

  • Des Squire Post author

    Hi Tando, I agree with you. When I train members of the “Skills Development committees” I advise them to do exactly what you suggest. Taking learners into TVET colleges or training them on learnereships is not sufficient. Providers and colleges should ensure the learners have somewhere to gain the practical and hands on exposure and experience. This is where there is a need for a partnership between providers, TVET colleges and employers.   

  • Tando Qeqe


    If I was in charge of TVET Colleges, I would collect all the names of companies within my jurisdiction and make meeting appointments with GM/CEO/MD of those companies. The first point on the agenda will be,how Colleges can satisfy companies,irt to produce work ready students.

    Secondly,is to ask companies provide/make available old machines that Colleges can use to improve machine knowledge understanding. This ideal is implemented in Germany. In that way, you have a win/win situation.

    However,Colleges, don’t see themselves as a business institution, by only academic institutions, thus letting the students down.

    That’ll be my 2 cents worth.

  • Des Squire Post author

    Hi Sylvia – I have always advocated the need for career guidance before the completion of grade 9. Our children need to be encouraged to accept they are either academically inclined or technically inclined. If the former then the child can continue in “main stream school” if the latter then a technical path should be followed via a TVET college. Children and parents need to be encouraged to address this issue as all children as we well know are not university material. We can deal with the skills shortage only if the problem is approached from grade 9 onwards. The entire education system needs a total change of direction and two clear-cut directions set out for our youth.  

  • Des Squire Post author

    Hi Xolile, Unfortunately they will leave college with a qualification which some companies recognise and others do not. TVET courses have not been sold to potential employers and have not been given the recognition they deserve. Learners completing these courses E.G.N6 Electrical Engineering will leave college with a qualification and that is all. they then need to gain the related experience and this is where the system fails them. Colleges and providers should strive to ensure placement of learners so that they can receive the required experience. So in answer to your question my reply would be – general workers initially and would then have to work their way up. 

  • Xolile Hans

    Dear Des, Please solve my problem here. I am assisting unemployed youth who completed TVET training with receiving the required experiential learning by approaching would be workplace with a request to give these learners this opportunity as I will then pay them at the end of each month for 12 months. One employer is approached for (25)  N6 in Electrical Engineering from a TVET college. The employer enquires what the job description of these learners will be (will they function as general workers or what). because of the technical nature of this qualification, I approached the Head of Department in the Engineering campus with this question and he refer me to Merseta who he said is the custodian of the qualification as he said he did not know. Those learners are still roaming the streets with qualifications that they got almost 3 years ago but cannot get the required 18 months experiential learning.

    1. Where do we miss it ? 

    2. How can we help these kids ?

    Remember that If what I am reporting happened in an urban area. What will happen to rural learners?

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Dear Des, this article came at an interesting time for me.  I had been without running water since Monday evening – after a pipe burst – and trying to get service of a plumber!  After numerous telephone calls, SMSs etc. I did finally have a visit from a plumber midday.  

    We had an interesting discussion about why youth are not interested in being plumbers.  Minister Nzimande’s name also came into the conversation that he is very aware of the issue.  

    I pointed out to the plumber that he should be explaining to youth that getting work at a call centre, or using computers, are all the kind of jobs that can be replaced by a robot – or artificial intelligence systems.

    But while locating where the leak is coming from, and maybe even digging the appropriate size hole, could be done by a robot, the full job of what the plumber did, will probably always require a human being.  What he did interacting with me as client, repairing the joint, explaining the problem, and testing and re-adjusting etc probably would always require the human element.

    I wonder whether the trades – part of what the TVET provide – are really being “sold” effectively in the right way?  Young people who want personal responsibility, potential for independence, a variety of work, people contact, and work that cannot easily be replaced by a machine – might be more interested if these issues were explained to them in an appropriate way.  

  • Phikolomzi Ndamase

    That’s very true. If our young people can begin to consider TVET colleges as a way of getting into employment then consider Universities as a way of furthering their studies, the issues of scarce skills will be history. We need to encouraged young people to consider the TVET route. The other challenge that some young people face after studying through TVET colleges is the issue of workplace experience for them to receive their diplomas.