Nzimande: Diversified post-school education key to curb high unemployment

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, says the upsurge in the number of people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) demonstrates the need to expand access to post-school education and training (PSET) opportunities.

This requires PSET institutions to offer a diversity of programmes not only to take account of the needs of the youth who completed schooling, but also for those who did not complete their schooling, in an integrated and articulated manner,” Nzimande said.

Speaking at the Community Education and Training (CET) Summit underway at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Nzimande said expanding access and diversifying a highly articulated education and training provision, as well as improving its quality and responsiveness to the world of work, are the main policy objectives of the PSET system.

“The attainment of these objectives remains a challenge, as South Africa continues to face an ever-increasing number of people who are not in NEET,” Nzimande said.

Held under the theme, ‘Mass Skills Programme Provision’, the two-day hybrid summit is aimed at assessing progress made in attaining the vision drawn out in the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training.

The summit also aims to prioritise actions and activities to strengthen and stabilise the CET college system, and position them to become key institutions for the provision of skills programmes in South Africa.

CET is an emerging sector within the PSET system. The foundation of the sector evolved from the former Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET), which focused predominantly on basic literacy and numeracy for adults.

The transitioning of the sector gave birth to nine CET colleges, one per province, with 1 791 learning sites clustered under them.

Nzimande said it should remain a concern for all that over 3.4 million young South Africans, aged 15-24, are disengaged from education and work.

“The youth unemployment rate, measuring jobseekers between 15 and 24 years old, hit a new record high of 66.5%. Two million of them have not finished Grade 12, while some of them are working in the extensive informal economy.

“However, our CET sector caters for all youth and adults, irrespective of age… We ought to reposition the CET sector to play its unique role in the provision of the necessary skills required for our economic development, and to take the majority of our people out of poverty and indignity,” Nzimande said.

Government, the Minister said, is seized with using its own resources and internal capabilities to deal with the school-to-work transition by investing a significant portion of its budget to support youth with learnerships and internships, and other government funded programmes that help to create mass employment.

Nzimande warned that failure to integrate many people into the labour market threatens social cohesion. He said in the South Africa context, this remains of particular concern because of the “over-representation of black South Africans in the NEET population”.

“Our White Paper for Post-School Education and Training called for the establishment of CET colleges as the third tier of institutions in the PSET system. The sector, if well organised, has the potential to address some of these challenges experienced by the people who are not in employment, education or training,” Nzimande said.