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Dual System Apprenticeships are putting employers in the driver's seat

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Karin Hendricks, Principal (Acting) at False Bay College, speaks at the opening of the Centre for Specialisation for Mechanical Fitting and Riggers Karin Hendricks, Principal (Acting) at False Bay College, speaks at the opening of the Centre for Specialisation for Mechanical Fitting and Riggers

The establishment of two Centres of Specialisation (CoS) in Mechanical Fitting and Rigging is not just a significant development for the False Bay Technical and Vocational Education and Training(TVET) College in Cape Town but an important step in addressing the skills shortages in the country.

Centres of Specialisation in the TVET College sector, is a new concept and programme that is fast gaining track. These centers are an initiative of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and have been designed to meet two objectives simultaneously. Firstly, to address the demand for priority trades needed for the implementation of government’s National Development Plan in general and it’s National Infrastructure Plan more particularly. “Secondly, to contribute towards the building of the capacity of its public TVET College system”, said Karin Hendricks, Principal (Acting) at False Bay College.

Speaking at the launch of the CoS for mechanical fitting and rigging, she said artisan development was a critical element in the strategy to boost the manufacturing and engineering components of the economy and to support job creation.

“The CoS will see industry in partnership with TVET colleges drive a strategy to increase the pool of available artisans to meet the needs of the major 18 Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPS) across 13 priority trades in engineering fields, which have been selected for the CoS project” said Karin Hendricks.

“Currently the average age of an artisan in South Africa is about 54. It is therefore no surprise that there is a critical shortage of qualified artisans and that it threatens economic growth. The past few years have seen a sharp focus on the return to artisanship,” said Hendricks.

The CoS approach

Through this programme, 13 trades will be trained at a public TVET in partnership with the private sector that will provide the practical side allowing for learners who graduate from the programme with an improved understanding of the workplace with relevant and up to date knowledge. These trades include – bricklayer; electrician; millwright; boilermaker; plumber; mechanic; diesel mechanic; carpenter and joiner; welder; rigger; fitter and turner; mechanical fitter and pipe fitter.

According to Eugene Vermaak of the Steel Engineering Federation of South Africa, the programme will deliver a far more skilled and capable workforce.

“The dual system combines an apprenticeship in the workplace with a technical education at a TVET college. Not only are the learners exposed to high quality theoretical training and practicals, but it is combined with authentic work experience,” he said. “This is a single integrated learning programme presented through a re-iterative process with employers in the driver’s seat.”

While most TVET colleges in the country offer all the approved programmes of the trades the CoS focusses on, many of the curriculums are outdated and qualifications are often not linked to occupational competence.

“The new approach” said Vermaak, “Is that employer’s partner with TVET through their apprenticeship programmes and so addressing the artisan skills shortage.”

“Selecting certain colleges to focus on particular trades in this programme was purposefully done to lay the foundation for differentiation in the college system” said Vermaak. 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 specialization.

At False Bay College, mechanical fitters and riggers will be trained under the CoS.

“We have been training fitters for many years and have built up strong relationships with industry players in this space. We are confident that industry partners, old and new will take hands with the College to build a state of the art world class CoS for Mechanical Fitting,” said Hendricks. “Rigging is completely new for us as a college but we are excited by the challenge to grow the CoS Rigging from scratch together with our industry partners. One does not always have the chance to build something from the ground, from the spatial design of the centre, to sourcing the right tools and training equipment, to ensuring the relevance of the curriculum content and course design under the QCTO, to the actual course roadmap.”

This year the College is developing its new campus, Swartklip, along Swartklip road, bridging the communities of Mitchell’s plain and Khayelitsha. This campus will grow to see up to 3000 engineering students’ enrolled at any one time. The focus of the training at Swartklip campus will be on artisan development  

“Our CoS for Rigging will be established at the Swartklip campus in January 2019. This is a campus that will be built on partnerships with SETA’s, government departments, community linkages, but most importantly, business and industry. Carving and shaping a new campus, a new programme for our College namely - Rigging and a new CoS,” she said.

In total, 30 riggers will be trained under the CoS in 2019 as part of the pilot of this programme.

Why participate

According to Vermaak, there is much benefit for companies to get involved with CoS.

“Skills training can be a moneymaker and not a money taker,” he said indicating that industry was often skeptical of apprenticeships as they were costly to a business. “In the United States employers get an average of $1, 47 back from $1 dollar invested in an apprenticeship.”

Changing the mindset around apprenticeships is critical if South Africa is to successfully address the artisan skills shortage.

Vermaak said “A three-year apprenticeship costs around R507 435. By our calculation the net loss to a company is around R212 000, but the value of the apprenticeships is R290 000. That is without the grants that the employer gets, back the BBBEE points that is scored or the SARS rebates. There are major financial benefits to apprenticeship programmes such as these.”

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