The digital world being ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) requires more than just office workers – it requires engineers, technicians and artisans. Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) enables learners to further their studies, as it creates more opportunities to gain additional qualifications, says experiential learning training hub Resolution Circle CEO Gideon Potgieter.
TVET focuses on artisanal skills such as those of mechanics, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and welders. In many developed economies, the majority of youth pursue vocational training and TVET represents an internationally accepted alternative path to education and career development, he adds.
“Irrespective of how connected and technology-enabled society becomes, there will always be a need for artisans. Human resources, especially those with technical and vocational skills, will remain integral to how we live and work.”
Having language skills in place to master grammar and spelling to program machines properly, and a basic understanding of mathematics, form the foundation of the skills required by artisans to support robotics and the Internet of Things.
After Grade 9, learners can follow a vocational path to obtain the qualifications for career choices that will be essential in the future.
“Training providers have started developing short programmes and courses built around 4IR. Given how many of the jobs of the future do not exist yet, this provides learners with opportunities to be at the forefront of innovation and go beyond many of the traditional options available to them.
“When compared with other countries [in terms of] vocational training, South Africa performs better than middle-income countries, such as Brazil and Turkey, according to the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Review,” adds Potgieter.
Refocusing on vocational training is not only the responsibility of parents, learners and government but also that of the private sector, which has a “critical” role to play in this regard, says Potgieter.
“Currently, the challenge for those undergoing vocational training is what happens after the theory is completed. While students will receive a certificate, they still lack vital job experience.”
If they want to go into formal apprenticeships to register as artisans, there are not sufficient opportunities available and more needs to be done to change this, he adds.
“Much of this comes down to securing the required corporate funding to give more students access to experiential training that is currently highly oversubscribed,” he states.
From a business perspective, sponsoring these initiatives makes sense. It assists corporates with their broad-based black- economic-empowerment compliance and enables them to claim back a percentage of this expenditure against their skills development levy payments over a financial year.
These claims apply if they send their own employees for upskilling and if they sponsor learners through their workshop and experiential training programmes, notes Potgieter.
“Examples of work experience programmes launched include the national YES4Youth programme, which aims to address the shortage of internships to a certain extent. Large corporates are committing to taking on interns, but it is still limited, given the number of students in the country,” he says.
The Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator also offers a programme for unemployed youths who have passed Grade 12. The programme works with corporates to identify skills shortages in the workplace. It matches these to its database of unemployed learners and offers them relevant training programmes.
Resolution Circle focuses on applied knowledge. Workshops and experiential training programmes provide youth with the experience they need to bridge the gap between their existing skills and capabilities and the current requirements of the workplace.