Stakeholders in the TVET sector have at various forums and through various means raised their concerns about the current state of the TVET system. For instance, in December 2016, the South African Further Education and Training Students Association (SAFETSA) submitted a memorandum of demands to the Department. The following, are amongst other concerns raised in the memorandum: inadequate teaching and learning equipment (i.e. lack of protective gear, laboratories and workshops), unqualified and/or under qualified lecturers, late release of results, outstanding certificates and diplomas and so on. Consequently, TVET Colleges were threatened with a "#TVET shutdown" campaign pending resolution of the demands.
Stakeholder formations such as the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Governors Council (TVETCGC) and the South African College Principals Organisation (SACPO) have also expressed discontent about the state of the TVET system.
The following practical implications at the College level have been expressed: increase in class sizes, reduced financial reserves for Colleges, less funding for infrastructure maintenance and development (i.e. inadequate laboratories and workshops), reduced expenditure on protective gear and reduced per capita spending on students.
In February 2016, National Treasury released a report on the 'Performance and Expenditure Review of TVET Colleges'. This report indicates, amongst other things, that the 'low throughput and certification rates are severely hampering the potential impact of TVET colleges. In 2013, the national certification rate was only 32.5% for NC (V) Level 2 courses.' The report basically bemoans under-performance at TVET Colleges. The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training (PC-HET), through observations from its oversight visits to TVET Colleges and/or as a result of complains from the public, has been raising questions about the perceived precarious state of TVET Colleges.
In the main, the major issues and/ or concerns raised are symptomatic of chronic underfunding of the TVET system; inability of the TVET system to transform; unresponsiveness to the needs of the economy, the labour market and the national development goals; irrelevance of some of the programmes offered; lack of an integrated approach to achieving goals of the TVET system as well as inadequate synergies and/or alignment with other Departments, industry and institutions.
At the same time as these challenges are experienced, the TVET sector has been earmarked as one of the most important sectors for dealing with unemployed youth, often referred to as NEET (People Not in Employment, Education or Training). The TVET sector is also seen both in South Africa and abroad as strategically positioned to offer opportunities for youth to prepare them for the world of work.
This may be through formal qualifications, short programmes or occupational qualifications which may lead to employability.
The White Paper on Post School Education and Training (WPSET) system identifies the need to expand and develop the TVET sector. In 2009 the intake of students in the TVET system compared to the university sector was around 1:3. This means that more learners were taken into the university sector. This ratio has to be reversed without affecting high end skills produced in the universities. Since 2009 a great deal of work has been done and enrolments at present are almost twice that of 2009. However the fast expansion has had a significant negative impact on the delivery of learning, teaching and assessment and has heightened demands for more access without a concomitant increase in funding.
TVET Colleges have been tasked with multiple roles in order to address various historical legacies in the post-school education and training system. For instance, amongst other things, TVET Colleges have been portrayed in the public domain as:
- a) Preparing students for the world of work;
- b) Bedrock of skills development;
- c) Bridging the employability gap/focused on employability;
- d) First choice Centers of Innovation; and
- e) Institutions of choice.
These descriptions are peddled against the backdrop of Colleges that have historical weaknesses in some areas. With this greater emphasis comes increased pressure on TVET institutions to show sound governance and management, relevant and responsive curriculum, increased lecturer competence and overall improved student performance. In addition, heightened demands for additional infrastructure, in particular student housing, and alternative modes of delivery must be contemplated. There are also assumed constraints imposed by current legislation and policy propositions. Transformation of this sector will not happen without due attention to these factors. Conscious decisions, fulfilled commitments and concerted efforts are required to move the sector from where it is at present to the desired state.