Honourable Premier of Gauteng Province, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane,
Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande,
Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr Malusi Gigaba,
Minister of Labour, Ms Mildred Oliphant,
The Chairperson of Tshwane South FET College Council,
The Principal of Tshwane South FET College,
Tshwane South FET College management, staff, Student Representative Council and students.
Thank you for hosting us just two days before the delivery of the State of the Nation address for 2013.
In May 2012, I had a meeting with FET College Councils and Principals. In that meeting, I made a commitment that government would do everything possible to improve FET colleges and make them centres of excellence and choice for our youth.
I decided then, that I needed to visit an FET college and see first-hand how the colleges are run and what students do here. This visit signifies the importance that government attaches to education, specifically further education and training.
It signifies the importance we attach to FET colleges. That is why I have brought Ministers and the Premier, so that together we can recommit government to providing full support to FET colleges countrywide.
Secondly, I thought it would be critical for me to make an assessment of whether, our FET Colleges are sufficiently equipped to deliver the skills which are required for the growth and development of the economy as outlined in the National Development Plan and its programmes such as the New Growth Path.
Lastly, I came at the beginning of the academic year to encourage the students of Tshwane South FET College, Odi Campus, and other colleges to focus on their studies. In a few years from now, we want you to be qualified artisans and apprentices.
We are also here to say loudly and clearly, that the time for FET colleges to be made to feel inferior to universities of technology and other colleges must come to an end. FET colleges offer training in careers that are in demand in the workplace. If you are an artisan you are as important to this economy as any other professional.
We want you and all other FET college students to know that we attach great importance to what you are studying here because you are definitely the future of our country. We see FET colleges as contributing immensely to youth development. There are approximately 3 million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 years of age who are not in employment, education or training, representing a huge waste of human potential.
An even larger number of adults over the age of 24 are in the same position. This, if unattended to, establishes a basis for the continuation, and possibly even the expansion, of poverty in South Africa. The expansion of the education and training system, leading to a skilled workforce, is an indispensable part of any viable strategy to tackle poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The country depends on FET colleges for much-needed intermediate and high-level technical and vocational skills. This is particularly the case because the scarce and critical skills such as plumbing, welding, mechanics, fitting and turning are produced at FET colleges.
It is of concern to observe that in the midst of high unemployment rates, our economy is still experiencing a shortage of skilled labour. It shows that our youth still study courses that are not in demand in the workplace.
At the meeting with the councils and principals last year, I made a commitment towards ensuring that more funds are allocated for FET Colleges infrastructure and that has been made possible through the Minister of Higher Education and Training. The department has made provision for additional funding.
One of the notable achievements of government is the provision of funds for financially needy, but academically capable students at universities and colleges. The money made available to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has more than doubled over the past years. A total of R1.7 billion was allocated for FET College students in 2012. This amount will increase to R2 billion in 2013.
This programme gives effect to the introduction of free education whereby all qualifying National Certificate Vocational (NCV) and the NATED students are exempted from payment of fees at all public FET colleges. The SETAs or Sector Education and Training Authorities have been asked to reorient their funding to channel more resources into full occupational programmes at public FET colleges and universities.
We want them to commit progressively fewer resources to short courses, and must increasingly channel training resources into tackling the shortage of artisans, technicians, professionals, administrators, managers and others needed to build the economy. Government has prioritised the strengthening of artisan training through apprenticeships and learnerships.
The National Skills Accord, signed by all the social partners represented in NEDLAC in July 2011, commits them to a number of things, with numerical targets where appropriate.
Agreements include the following:
Government and private sector employers committed to expanding the level of training using existing facilities and to expand these facilities;
They agreed that training will take place both in colleges and in workplaces belonging to the private sector, government and state-owned enterprises;
Employers in the private sector and the state-owned enterprises agreed to take on more apprentices, learners and interns and to train beyond their own needs;
Organised labour and government agreed that not all trainees will become employees in the company concerned and a distinction will be drawn between trainees and employees for purposes of establishing who are entitled to collective bargaining entitlements.
All parties agreed to work to improve the role and performance of FET Colleges.
I am pleased that government with its social partners signed the National Skills Accord, as one of the first outcomes of social dialogue on the New Growth Path. We are optimistic that this will pave the way to achieving the New Growth Path target of five million new jobs by 2020.
Commitments two and eight of the National Skills Accord relates directly to your roles as FET Colleges. Companies are committing to make 12 000 placement or internship spaces available for FET College students.
They will also provide opportunities for work exposure in an industry work environment to 16,000 (sixteen thousand) lecturers annually. The National Skills Accord positions FET colleges as the preferred training providers for skills training programmes.
In the light of the opportunities and programme outlined above, my message to young people today, particularly the students of Tshwane South FET College is to encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities brought about by freedom and democracy.
Take advantage of opportunities created by government’s investment in student financial aid, huge infrastructure programmes and other economic activities for which your skills are highly in demand. We want you to be change agents that will break the cycle of poverty, liberate yourselves and future generations in your communities.
Work hard, stay focused and complete your studies in record time. I call upon all student leadership formations including the Student Representative Councils to take the lead in advocating for discipline, class attendance and a generally positive conduct which forms the basis for success in one’s studies.
Let me also extend a word of gratitude to those dedicated members of college Councils, management as well as staff for their efforts in making sure that the youth of South Africa are provided with education and training of good quality.
We wish you all a good start to the year and a very productive 2013. We look forward to seeing you in the workplace soon as qualified artisans, contribution to building a prosperous South Africa.