Investment in teaching and learning infrastructure pays off

South Africa – Gabi Khumalo
Government’s commitment to strengthening and developing the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) sector, has brought about change to the community of Msinga .

The community recently witnessed the opening of a new state-of-the-art campus of the uMgungundlovu Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College .

Officially opened by Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, the Msinga Campus which is located in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, is part of the response to the community, which has been calling for the building and upgrading of the college .

This commitment to strengthening the PSET sector was made through investing in infrastructure to provide quality teaching, learning and research, and innovation spaces .

The campus, which was built by the Department of Higher Education and Training, as part of its TVET Infrastructure Development Programme, is funded in part through the National Skills Fund (NSF) and the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA) .

The R143 561 753 .

44 Msinga campus commenced with formal programme provision at the new site in January 2022 .

To date, the campus has three buildings .

These include the administration block that contains offices, a staff room, exam centre and the official reception site .

The theory building consists of two computer laboratories that can accommodate up to 70 students each, and double sized classrooms .

Included on the campus is an engineering block that consists of four workshops, as well as smaller skills venues on the upper floor .

Programmes offered
The campus offers National Accredited Technical Education Diploma (NATED) programmes, including Nated Public Management (N4-N6), Nated Business Management (N4 – N6) and Farming Management .

The campus also offers a new National Certificate Vocational programme in Mechatronics Level 2 – Level 4, which the Minister described as a cutting edge Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) programme .

The decision to offer this programme to the young people of Msinga according to Nzimande was because “we want this youth to be highly skilled and be able to compete at any level with the youth that is based in urban areas, including competing with the any youth at an international level .


“Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field that refers to the skill sets needed in the contemporary, advanced automated manufacturing industry .

Mechatronics specialists work with massive industrial robots, smaller robots in pick-and-place operations, control systems for bottling or packaging of food and drink products, drones, designing control systems for rides in amusement parks, [and] prototype development .

“Some mechatronics specialists are employed in firms where it is necessary to design and maintain automatic equipment [and] this includes industries such as manufacturing, mining, aviation, robotics, defence, and transport .

Other mechatronic specialists are employed by large manufacturing companies involved in high-volume production,” Nzimande explained .

Nzimande also highlighted that mechatronics is a financially lucrative career with the average mechatronic engineer earning around R360 000 per year or R185 per hour in South Africa .

He said the entry-level positions start at R300 000 per year, while most experienced workers make up to R4 050 000 per year and more .

Investment
The Department of Higher Education and Training has identified the expansion of the TVET sector as a national priority in the Post-School Education and Training system .

This as 13 new campuses have been identified for development with three existing campuses identified for additional buildings .

“We have embarked on this intense expansion programme to ensure that our post school education and training sector produce[s] many technical and vocational skills and to also reinvigorate the South African construction industry and the economy in general,” Nzimande said .

The department has invested over R2 .

880 billion in the development and refurbishment of 16 new TVET campuses that will enable the expansion of the TVET system over the medium term .

Of the 16 sites, 10 campuses, including Thabazimbi, Umzimkhulu, Graaf-Reinet, Nongoma Msinga, Aliwal North, Kwagqikazi, Ngqungqushe, Nkandla A and Bhambanani are completed .

Nzimande said the three new campuses, including Greytown, Sterkspruit and Balfour are at their final stages of completion, while the remaining three sites of Vryheid, Giyani and Nkandla B will be completed by the end of the 2023/24 financial year with enrolments planned for 2024/25 .

Skills
The Minister reiterated the vision and objective for the public TVET colleges sector, which is to expand and strengthen the TVET sub-system in order to provide quality technical and vocational education and training to prepare students for the world of work, self-employment and other forms of sustainable livelihoods .

However, Nzimande acknowledged the constraints caused by skills ‘mismatches,’ –as being real and perceived– towards the attainment of the TVET colleges’ objective, particularly the ability to grow the country’s economy, which further perpetuates a barrier to social inclusion and poverty reduction .

In response to this mismatch, the department has since developed a one country one skills plan – the Master Skills Plan, which is an implementation plan of the Human Resource Development Strategy .

“In order for our sector to invest in relevant skills development, we are also using the National List of Occupations in High Demand (OIHD) in South Africa, which is one of the many instruments that guides government’s investment in skills development .

“This list has 345 occupations that are in high demand [and] tells us which occupations are likely to have what vacancies and which occupations are likely to grow due to new investments, by both government and the private sector,” he said .

The Minister is confident that the skills that students will acquire at Msinga College, will take them to greater heights with prospects of a successful career .

To further illustrate government’s commitment to massify skills development, in 2018 the department embarked on a campaign to launch 26 Centres of Specialisation located in 19 of 50 TVET colleges prioritising 13 occupational trades in high demand .

This move aimed to curb the shortage of trade and occupational skills, while reducing unemployment and poverty .

The centres were provided with resources to upgrade their workshops and equipment to deliver effectively on much-needed skills .

“These 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 .


Artisans
Nzimande also believes that the country is well on track to produce 30 000 qualified artisans per year by 2030 .

This follows the launch of the Decade of the Artisan campaign in 2013, which promotes artisanship as a career of choice for the youth .

Launched under the theme: “It’s cool to be a 21st Century Artisan”, the campaign ensures the development of the necessary artisans to successfully implement the country’s Strategic Infrastructure Projects, which include the construction of roads, schools, universities, harbours, power stations, and other social and economic infrastructure .

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

We honestly need to do more to encourage school leavers to pursue technical trades .

“Our Government’s National Development Plan (NDP) and our White Paper for Post-School Education and Training expects of us that by 2030, the country should be producing 30 000 qualified artisans per year .

At present, our country is producing an average 20 000 qualified artisans per year,” Nzimande said .

He stressed the need to ensure that the number increase drastically leading up to 2030 for the country to realise the NDP target .

“We however do believe that we are well on track to attain this goal and even surpass it .

The Msinga campus is very much part of this agenda and will help us greatly to produce more artisans .


Nzimande said with the current challenges within different sectors in society, more artisans are needed than ever before and the work of artisans will always be guaranteed .

Progress made to date, shows that government is burning the candle at both ends .

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