The Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation is currently working on an overhaul of South Africa’s TVET colleges and universities to improve job opportunities for students and reindustrialise the economy.
Addressing a national skills conference this week, Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande said this would include an increased focus on apprenticeships and work-based learning as part of college training.
“It is my intention and plan as the Minister to build and refashion our technical and vocational education system to be apprenticeship based,” he said. “Ideally, every TVET college student should be apprenticed in industry or in a workplace, rather than the current system of a theoretically biased TVET system.”
Nzimande said that the country’s higher-learning institutions would also be ‘restructured’ to promote innovation and digitalisation in the skills development ecosystem.
This will include introducing new programmes and subjects in emerging interdisciplinary fields to more efficiently provide trained workers in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology materials, and artificial intelligence.
“Substantial and constant changes to the curricula of our institutions remain critical to allow for students to develop capacities to deal with emergent and unknown challenges of the future brought by the 4IR.
“Clearly, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical (STEM) subjects have a crucial role to play in equipping students in rapidly developing fields such as genomics, data science, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and nanomaterials, which are all 4IR concepts.”
Nzimande said that these new subjects would not be limited to a focus on technology but would also include changes in the outcomes of what students are taught, with new entrepreneurship programmes also being introduced at universities to promote new local businesses.
“The innovation and digitalisation put a premium on adaptability and in self-directed learning and thinking,” he said. “Therefore, lifelong learning will be key as the shelf life of any skills development ecosystem has limitations in the present-day environment.”