Minister Blade Nzimande: Ekurhuleni West College graduation ceremony

26 May 2023

Regional Manager of Gauteng and Free State, Mr Pule Mashele;
Chairperson of the College Council, Adv. Chris Setlhako;
Principal of the College, Mr Peter Mudau;
Members of College Council;
Members of Broad Management of the college;
My Ministry and DHET officials;
Government departments present;
Representatives of Unisa, University of Pretoria and Wits University;
College principals;
Representatives of Business;
Local Student Representative Council (ISRC);
Invited school learners especially learners from schools with special educational needs;
Distinguished guests;
Members of the media

Good Morning

Today I am highly honoured to be joining this graduation ceremony because of the importance of the TVET  sector.

TVET colleges mainly train young people to develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes that are needed in the labour market.

We need to pay equal attention now to both engineering and non-engineering fields in terms of work placement.

Interestingly, this graduation ceremony takes place exactly ten (10) years after the declaration of the Year of the Artisan in 2013.

This month we are also celebrating 20 years anniversary since the merger  of our Hundred and fifty-two (152) South African public TVET into fifty (50) colleges in 2003.

The event also takes place as South Africa joins the rest of the Africa continent in celebrating the national Africa Day.

Africa Day commemorates the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) 60 years ago, and its transformation 20 years ago into the African Union (AU).

This years’ Africa Month programme is celebrated under the theme: “Deepening the AU Vision for Unity for Africa through Prosperity, Peace and Modernity for a Better Africa and a Better World.”

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate all our graduates for having worked so diligently to complete their course work. Today, I want to join the college management, your family and friends in wishing you well in your careers.

Ekurhuleni West College is one of our best performing college in our country.  This is the only college in South Africa has offer aircraft maintenance.

This is amongst the reason that I would not have missed this important graduation.

Ladies and gentlemen

Our Department took a decision to grow technical and vocational training with specific emphasis on its size and shape, differentiation, articulation, efficiency and functional effectiveness in response to the broader national development challenges.

We stand committed towards our resolve to position the TVET college sector within the education and innovation system as a tool to empower our citizens, especially our youth and women by seeking to meet their training needs.

South Africa needs at least 60% of school leavers to pursue artisanal type training to meet the country’s demand for scarce skills.

In 2014, we launched the Decade of the Artisan campaign to promote artisanship as a career of choice to South Africa’s youth. The campaign was launched under the theme “Its cool to be a 21st Century Artisan”.

The importance of this programme is to ensure that we produce artisans in increased numbers to provide the much-needed skills in our economy.

As we know, our Government’s National Development Plan (NDP) and our White Paper for Post-School Education and Training indicates that by 2030 the country should be producing 30 000 qualified artisans per year.

Currently, South Africa is producing on average 20 000 qualified artisans per year.

Ours is to ensure that the number increase drastically leading up to 2030 for the country to realise the National Development Plan (NDP) target.

This is the reason why this graduation ceremony today is so important to ensure that we meet our NDP targets.

In the 2020/21 financial year, through our SETAs and INDLELA, we issued 12 613 national trade certificates for the learners who participated in the government Special Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) scarce skills programme.

They include artisanal skills in automotive mechanics, electrician, plumber, diesel mechanic, boilermaker, millwright and welder.

This college graduated 540 NC (V) students for their NC (V) NQF level 4 qualifications and also graduated 565 students for their Nated N6 Certificates.

Therefore the  college added a total of 1022 future ready graduates to the national workforce.

In my response to the President State of the Nation Address (SONA), I have committed that through our SETAs, we will increase our targets for Workplace-Based Learning for the financial year commencing on 1 April 2022, to 107 000.

We have also committed to have 15 000 TVET college graduates to be placed for   Workplace-Based Learning. This is 5000 more than the SONA commitments.

We are also targeting 20 500 opportunities for apprentices, 22 500 for artisanal trades; 31 300 for those completing learnerships and 148 000 for learners entering into various other skills development programmes, such as digital skills, crop production and plant production.

I must indicate that we have made great strides to achieve our set targets in all these respects.

TVET colleges support

Ladies and gentlemen

In 2017, we took a decision to launch 26 Centres of Specialisation in 2017 at nineteen (19) of our TVET Colleges, with an initial investment of R150 million to upgrade infrastructure.

We now have expanded our Centres of Specialisation to thirty-four (34) Centres at twenty (20) TVET Colleges with a further investment of R68 million and sixteen (16) of our Colleges now have thirty-three (33) Trade Test Centres.

These trade test centres have trade tested over 600 artisans of which over 500 have qualified as artisans. 

Currently twenty-six (26)  of our colleges are engaged in entrepreneurial training through our  Entrepreneurship Hubs. We are working to ensure that  all our colleges are involved in some form of entrepreneurship training in the next three (3) years.

When this department was established in 2009, there was only one trade test centre for the whole country at Indlela, and this was presenting a huge obstacle in the pipeline of producing more artisans. Now we have thirty-three (33) trade test centres, and this is indeed a huge achievement!

Our SETAs have injected R138 600 000 for the workplace training which was paid directly to employers to produce more artisans!

To date our Department has opened up 14 954 TVET placement opportunities to the value of R726 Million and we also committed to achieve a target of 20 000 placements of TVET graduates work placements.

For the 2023/24 financial year, we have set for ourselves the following targets as part of expanding training opportunities:

  • 110 500 workplace-based learning (WBL) opportunities;
  • 149 000 learners  to be registered in skills development programs;
  • 23 000 learners to enter artisanal programs;
  • 21 000 learners to pass artisanal trades;
  • 32 550 learners to complete learnerships; and
  • 6 450 learners to complete internships.

I must also indicate that our Centres of Specialisation are well positioned to prepare students for the workplace, or for self-employment, through the maintenance of close working relationships with employers in their areas of study.

We have also established entrepreneurship hubs at TVET Colleges to support students to move into self-employment after completion of their programmes.

I am also pleased to indicate that, working with my other Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), we are supporting innovation programmes and projects in our TVET college sector! Artisans can indeed be innovators and historically they have always been!

I am also happy to announce that as a Department, we have further re-developed the National Apprenticeship and Artisan Development Strategy to increase the interest of all artisan development role players i.e., Industry, Training Providers and TVET colleges.

The artisan development strategy fosters collaboration with State Owned Companies (SoCs) and ensure that the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Department of Public Enterprises and other Government departments, participate in a Skills Development Committee to structure a quota system to revive SoCs active contribution to artisan training.

Unfortunately, the impact of state capture and its corruption in a number of SoCs has negatively impacted on the very important role historically played by these entities in the production of artisans.

Programme Director

Our Department have also increased the artisan training grant  from R165 000 to R209 290 to encourage more employer participation in the production of artisans.

Through the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations (QCTO), we are currently working on aligning the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Levels to artisan training.

This will widen the scope of Artisan training thus encouraging learners to develop interest because artisan training will be located within a post school qualifications framework with unlimited linkages to other post-school learning possibilities.

To this extent, it is important that we continue to expand the partnerships that we have with industry.

It is for this reason that I am pleased that Ekurhuleni West College (EWC) has over 100 co-operative agreements with the private and public organisation as well as with international institutions.

These industry partners have assisted with the placing of our students into Work Based Learning and Work Integrated Learning Programmes and some have donated workshops equipment bursaries and funded other activities of the college.

Through these partnerships, a total of 573 students have been placed in companies for job opportunities and internships.

This year at the CISCO 2023 Top Performing TVET colleges Awards, the Ekurhuleni West College was presented with an award for Outstanding Performance – “The Best College in the CISCO Network”.

I am also informed that the college is also finalising a partnership agreement with Unisa. After the signing of the MoU, both institutions will collaborate on several issues which includes articulation, student training and the enhancement of student’s entrepreneurship skills.

This kind of partnership between Unisa and the college will go a long way to dispel the negative attitude towards TVET colleges.

In 2023, the college also singed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bluegrass Community and Technical College in USA.

Ladies and gentlemen

As part of my service level agreement with all the SETAs, government priorities must be incorporated into their annual plans, especially those that are part of skills development initiatives to support the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Programme.

I have previously stated on numerous platforms that TVET college management, especially Principals, must know that they are not running TVET colleges unless they prioritise building partnerships with industry.

I gave a directive that all TVET college Principals should sign new Performance Agreements that include Industry Partnerships as one of their Key Performance Indicators. I want the department to ensure that this is not only implemented but properly monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis as well.

Holding TVET college principal to account on work-placement is informed by the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training which requires Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) to be a central component of the college programmes.

The extent to which students are able to get placements in the workplace must be used as an important indicator for assessing the performance of the management of institutions.

TVET college Principals owe it to the youth and skills development in our country, that they lead in the establishment of strategic partnerships with industry.

There is nothing that frustrates me like visiting even a medium sized industrial area, and where there is a TVET college campus in the vicinity, only to find that there is not a single TVET college student or graduate placement in any of the workplaces there.

We have incorporate issues of partnerships with the industry into the work performance of our regional managers to support the effort of building industry partnerships.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank all the employers who have been working with the college, including all those employers who work with our sector to provide workplace exposure and experience for both our TVET college students and lecturers.

We appreciate this partnership greatly and let us work to strengthen it. We also call all other employers, including SMEs, to join in with us in providing workplace experiential opportunity for our youth, in TVET and CET colleges, as well as generally for unemployed youth.

We have about 3,6 million youth between the ages of 15-24 who are neither in education, employment nor training (NEETs).

It will indeed be a travesty of justice and a serious indictment on us, as leaders, if we were to allow our inaction to cause TVET colleges to become a dead-end for students.

Our Centres of Specialisation have shown the way and let us now work towards mainstreaming all their experiences and successes into the mainstream of our TVET college system.

Conclusion

To all those that will be graduating as artisans today, I wish to congratulate all of you from the bottom of my heart, and to say we are very proud of you. Please remain as good ambassadors of our TVET brand and continue to be the “cool artisans of the 21st century”.

I appeal to you to keep your college as your place of pride, and where you can, please continue to support the work of the college.

I also urge the management of the college to establish some form of alumni society to keep in touch with their own successful products and form some kind of relationship with them!

Let me also take this opportunity to thank the college management, lecturers, our SETAs and industry partners who worked hard to ensure that we produce these artisans today.

Our founding father of our democracy, President Nelson Mandela once said:

“IT ALWAYS SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE, UNTIL IT IS DONE”!

Thank you very much to all of you. Once more to our graduates congratulations!

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