With the third highest youth unemployment rate in the world at 24.3%, creative solutions are required to enhance the work readiness and skills of school leavers in our country. Increasingly, across Africa as well as in Europe, technical and vocational skills development (TVSD) – or “the acquisition of knowledge, practical competencies, knowhow and attitudes necessary to perform a certain trade or occupation in the labour market” – has been identified as key way to build a more highly-skilled workforce to contribute to ailing economies. In South Africa, Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande has “tirelessly pushed for the repositioning of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges” to this end.

Youth unemployment continues to be exacerbated, however, by the fact that many Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students struggle to complete their qualifications because they are unable to access and complete the compulsory practical work placement component of the training. Even those who do manage to secure the 18-month work placement battle to find work post completion. What seems to be underlying this issue is a mismatch between what the TVET colleges students are provided with during their studies and what employers are looking for.

In 2011, the DGMT began exploring ways in which we could close this skills gap. Together with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), we approached the Further Education and Training Institute (FETI) to design a programme that will strengthen the ties between TVET colleges and industry in order to ease the difficulty students experience in finding placements to complete their diplomas.

Through the preliminary research for the project (read about the findings here), employers identified the need to facilitate the transition from college to work and embed a range of soft skills that were missing in the intake of students they were getting. The Work Preparation Programme (WPP) arose as an intervention to address this gap. The WPP was not an objective in itself but rather a means of facilitating the college to work transition.

This video gives us a look into how the Work Preparation Programme better equipp students to access and complete their work placements.

The WPP course materials will be disseminated to all 50 TVET colleges with the intention that they incorporate the WPP into their curricula. The idea is to improve the capacity of lecturers and work placement officers to orientate their students for work readiness, and to guide colleges on how to engage with industry to ensure closer relationships regarding the effective placement of learners.

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