Improving Work Opportunities for Young People

South Africa has embarked on a journey to build a modern, quality apprenticeship of the 21st century system as part of its skills development revolution. The framework around which this journey is based is the Centres of Specialisation (CoS) programme, an innovative multi-stakeholder based journey utilising a dual education system known as the Apprenticeship of the 21st Century or A21 system. On the 26 and 27th March the British Council invited key stakeholders to a conference specifically addressing work opportunities for young people.

Attendees included representation from the Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges (TVET);  the Department of Higher Education & Training (DHET); Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO); employers, SETAS, Apprentices representing each CoS Trade; Organised Labour and some local and International Support Organisations.

Makhosazane Mngadi, I-WORK Projects Manager: Education and Society for the British Council South Africa says the project had reached a stage where feedback on progress could be given and key input was required specifically around the most effective ways of expanding the A21 Digital Guideline; enhancing young people’s learning and employability and focusing on how local  and  regional mechanisms can enable employer-led education to take place. “Now, more than ever, there is an urgency to improve apprenticeships and employer-led education to meet the needs of rapidly changing economies in South Africa and around the world.  Whether learning from each other through building international links or from the past, we don’t need to provide all the answers ourselves but have strong belief that together we can make that change,” says Mngadi.

Project Co-ordinator, Dr Florus Prinsloo (DPhil, MBA, PGDip), a business coach and Quality Apprenticeship Systems expert was on hand to lead the discussions.

Jeanne Esterhuizen, President of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) and Deputy Chairperson of merSETA, who has been integrally involved in the development of the A21 guidelines believes it is critical for employers and SETAs to be committed and proactively support the dual apprenticeship system. “A quality apprenticeship system is critical, not only in South Africa, but globally, as it addresses youth employment.” She says in Africa the average age of the population is 19 years old so an apprenticeship system is a means to employment and a way they can meaningfully contribute to the economy. “In SA many of our artisans are poached by overseas companies so it is critical for us to expand our skills pool so we can support our own,” says Esterhuizen.

Esterhuizen believes if we don’t increase the skills pool there quite simply will not be jobs. “In the motor industry specifically the foundation of this industry is built on apprenticeships. It is the reason why RMI for example, a key employer body representing almost 8000 members, has been so integrally involved in the programme since inception.” She appeals to all employers and employer organisations in different sectors to get more involved.  She also sees value in the SETAs getting more involved by adding special projects in their strategic plans over the next 5 years which could support and expand on the CoS programme.

“Never before has there been a programme that has breached the gap between the education system and more particularly the TVET system and industry. This is a perfect example of how collaboration can fast track artisan training in SA. We are breaking down the silos and creating a symbiotic link between industry, educators and apprenticeships so that our students can feel confident they will have work and guaranteed workplace experience and industry can feel confident it will be receiving quality apprentices. Collaboration is key.”

The British Council’s I-work initiative is a flagship project and a vital link in promoting apprenticeships. “They provide a much needed conduit to scarce resources for SA. That includes development of partnerships across the common wealth of nations to enable knowledge sharing and leveraging of best practices across the world in apprenticeship development,” says Esterhuizen.

“There has never been a better time for young people to study and work. Our youth need to remain positive – they have all these opportunities at their fingertips and the technology to access all. What employers need most is exuberance and positivity and energy. In order to grow they need to innovate. For this they need highly skilled people,” concludes Esterhuizen.