South Africa’s 50 further education and training (FET) colleges on Tuesday received their share of the R2.5-billion earmarked for the expansion of the FET sector to support skills development in key growth sectors of the economy.
The investment, which was provided by the National Skills Fund, forms part of an initiative that the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) launched, aimed at building a strong vocational and continuing education and training system in the country.
Known as the FET Colleges Expansion and Capacity Development Programme, the initiative sought to make FET colleges central to skills development in the country.
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said that a further R1.5-billion would be made available for infrastructure improvement of the colleges.
“We are still far from the goal of one-million FET enrolments by 2014. We challenge the sector education training authorities (Setas) to increase financial investment and to support these colleges. Employers must also open their doors to these students for practical training,” he said.
The department had already forged agreements with Setas to contribute a further R1-billion towards the FET infrastructure initiative.
The DHET is also planning on establishing a call centre at Ekurhuleni East FET College, in Gauteng, where all graduate information from all FET colleges would be made available to industry, employers and Setas, which is aimed at improving prospects for student placements and employability.
Meanwhile, Nzimande said that the department was aware that more money was not necessarily the solution if it was not accompanied by other interventions to turn the system around. “That is why funding has been preceded by strengthening governance and financial management practices through the appointment of chief financial officers at each FET college.
“We are also setting up strong monitoring, evaluation and support mechanisms through the department to ensure that the funds are used for its intended purposes . . . One of our greatest enemies is corruption and tenderpreneurship,” he noted.
Nzimande concluded that this initiative was a clarion call to turn the country’s colleges around. “It is an historical opportunity that should be grabbed with both hands,” he said.