Tuesday, 03 October 2017 proved to be a very important and significant day in the history of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges in South Africa, and especially so for the College of Cape Town. On this day, the Department of Higher Education & Training announced the official Centres of Specialisation at an Awards Dinner hosted by the Minister of Higher Education & Training, Dr. Blade Nzimande, at the TVET Imbizo held at the Lakes Hotel and Conference Centre in Benoni, Johannesburg from 03 to 05 October 2017.
The College of Cape Town, the oldest TVET College in the country with a proud history dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, has again proven its ability to not only deliver in the needs of industry through quality education and training, but also ensure that students are skilled to meet these needs upon completing their studies. This ability was proven by two of the College’s campuses being named as a Centres of Specialisation for specific trades on the critical list, as identified in 2016. Thornton Campus has been declared a Centre of Specialisation for Plumbing, whilst Athlone Campus has been declared as a Centre of Specialisation for Automotive Motor Mechanic. The selection of these Centres of Excellence were done by the DHET in partnership with the Institute of Plumbing South Africa and the Retail Motor Industry Organisation respectively.
Where did the concept of Centres of Specialisation start?
On 9 February 2012 the President announced government’s plan to initiate a massive infrastructure investment programme. The programme consisted of 18 Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs). Each SIP is a fusion of projects which sets out to address a particular socio-economic opportunity or challenge within the country.
In April of the same year Dr. Nzimande established a Special Projects Unit (SPU) in the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). The mandate of this unit was to promote the development of the skills required for the construction and maintenance of the SIPs. A list of 94 occupations were identified as being in high demand across all of the eighteen SIPs nationally. During 2016, this list was shortened to a total of 13 priority trades targeted for intervention. The trades identified are:
- Mechanic including Automotive Mechanic
- Diesel Mechanic
- Carpenter and Joiner
- Fitter and Turner
- Mechanical Fitter
- Pipe Fitter
What is a Centre of Specialisation?
A Centre of Specialisation is a department within a public TVET college campus dedicated to training, in partnership with employers, successful, quality artisans in one or more of the priority trades listed above in sufficient numbers to meet the needs of the SIP projects and other strategic projects.
This goal is set to be attained through the provisioning of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations’ (QCTO) trade qualifications (‘apprenticeships’) using a South African adaptation of the dual system approach. Both quality standards and quantity targets are to be set for each trade which are to be attained over the lifespan of the Centre of Specialisation Programme, which runs until 2022.
Why are Centres of Specialisation Important?
The focus on trades in high demand aims to ensure that the strategic projects of government will be constructed and maintained using high quality South African skilled artisans. This will simultaneously contribute to job creation and poverty alleviation goals as set out in the national Development Plan 2030.
The public TVET college system is ideally placed to answer and respond to the call from industry and the state for more skilled artisans. The core mandate of TVET colleges to train skilled artisans via Centres of Specialisation provides the DHET and its partners with the opportunity to develop sites of good practice which others can follow in due course.
The centre of Specialisation model sets out to further motivate industry stakeholders and employers across both the public and private sectors to partner with TVET colleges to build a quality apprenticeship system. Through these partnerships and the quality of vocational education and training provided, the DHET hopes that society’s confidence in the TVET sector will grow and they will become both institutions of choice for students and partners of choice in training for industry employers.
The DHET is also applying the model of selecting certain colleges to focus on particular trades, to lay the foundation for differentiation in the college system. And whilst some other colleges may later specialise in the same trades, it is desirable that others develop expertise in other trades and occupations so there is reduced duplication and increased quality specialisation.
Centres of Specialisation are centres that will implement the new trade qualifications registered on the National Qualification Framework (NQF) by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).
These qualifications have been developed to overcome the historical spread of uneven Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) trade qualifications and to provide a single national standard, per trade, which can be easily understood in the labour market.
The College of Cape Town has been actively involved in and instrumental in the development of the new curriculum for these qualifications by the QCTO to meet industry needs, and has been an accredited trade test centre for various priority trades for many years.
This prestigious acknowledgement by the DHET and Industry was achieved as a result of extensive attention to innovation and development within the TVET sector, close relationships and partnerships with industry partners across numerous sectors, as well as the passion and dedication of the staff of the College.
Louis van Niekerk, Principal of the College, lauded the staff of the College for their role in this prestigious achievement. “Our success is based on the invaluable efforts of all our staff. Each staff member plays a critical role in the development of our students, and their efforts are evident in the success rate we achieve in not only the academic field, but also in the development of work-ready, employable graduates who are sought after by industry. Our entire business focus is student-centered, and for that reason we strive to continuously innovate and improve to deliver holistically developed graduates that meet the skills needs of not only the Western Cape, but the whole of South Africa and well into the African continent”.
“We have invested tremendous time and effort into building strong relationships with industry partners, not only to ensure that our curriculum delivery meets the needs of industry, but to capacitate our students and enable a higher rate of employment amongst our graduates. We wish to also extend our appreciation to our College Council, the leadership of the DHET, our industry partners and all other stakeholders who encourage us to continue inspiring minds”, he said.
For more information on the Centres of Specialisation in Plumbing or Motor Mechanics, or any of the sought after Engineering trade qualifications offered by the College, please contact Mr Frikkie O’Connell at email@example.com or via telephone 021 531 2105/6/7.