ATC101117: Report Further Education and Training (FET) Summit

Higher Education, Science and Technology

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training on the Further Education and Training (FET) Summit dated 17 November 2010

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training having been invited and participated at the FET Summit held at Birchwood Conference Centre, Boksburg reports as follows:

 

1. Background to the Summit

Over 400 stakeholders in the Further Education and Training (FET) College sector gathered at the Birchwood Conference Centre on 3 and 4 September 2010 for decisive discussions on the future of this crucial component of the post-school education and training landscape. The FET college subsystem is poised, in its new location in the post-school education and training system, to be a significant locus of delivery of vocational and continuing education and training, with strong links to the industry in order to meet the critical skills shortage.

 

The FET Summit was attended by among others college principals, college councils, labour, business, teacher unions, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), development agencies, Members of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and provincial departments. The Summit was aimed at repositioning the FET sector and building the confidence of the industry and of the public in the capacity of FET colleges.

 

 In April, a FET Roundtable brought together all key role players and stakeholders in the college subsystem to engage in a rigorous debate informed by an analysis of the challenges facing the colleges. A high-level steering committee, established at the roundtable and chaired by Higher Education and Training Director General Professor Mary Metcalfe, was appointed at the Roundtable and presented its recommendations to the summit for discussion. These recommendations were developed by intensive work of task teams and aimed at stabilizing the FET college sub-system and building a platform for its long-term development.

 

DELEGATION: The delegation of the committee consisted of Ms M Kubayi (ANC), Ms N Gina (ANC), Ms N Magazi (ANC), Ms F Mushwana (ANC) and Mr K Dikobo (AZAPO). Support staff included: Mr A Kabingesi (Committee Secretary).

 

2. Address by Ms N Nxesi: Chief Executive Officer, Education and Training Development Practices SETA (ETDPSETA)

The CEO welcomed all the distinguished guests and various stakeholders to the FET Summit hosted by ETDPSETA in conjunction with the Department of Higher Education and Training. In her address, she highlighted the following key issues:

·         The FET colleges and the schooling system form part of the agenda of SETAs in strengthening of skills development and building a strong relationship between business and the FET sector.

·         The FET Summit culminated as a result of the Roundtable in April to ensure synergy in the higher education and training sector. The Roundtable identified critical issues of the FET sector which would be seriously debated in the FET Summit.

·         Recommendations of the Summit would be forwarded to the Minister and the department for consideration.

 

3. Address by Dr B Nzimande: Minister of Higher Education and Training

The Minister welcomed all distinguished guests to the FET Summit. He expressed his sincere appreciation to the FET Steering Committee led by the DG for the excellent work they have done over the past four months in preparing for the FET Summit. He highlighted that the Summit has the challenge to critically examine the issues and recommendations presented by the Steering Committee which would lead to the stabilisation of the college sector in the short term and the creation of a sound platform for the development of the colleges as pillars of skills development across the nation.

The Minister indicated that the key focus areas of this government in respect of colleges include but are not limited to:

·         The shift of the function of managing the college system from provincial to national government.

·         Quality improvements including increased success and throughput.

·         Increased enrolment of youth and adults.

·         Closer alignment with skills development strategies and funding including training partnerships and work placement.

·         Increasing apprenticeship and learnerships.

·         The production of quality artisans as one of the key goals of the FET college sector.

The Minister went on to state that the President’s 2010 State of the Nation Address reiterated these themes with particular emphasis on the expansion of access in the context of the need to develop a skilled and capable workforce to support growth and job creation. A key challenge is for the sector to grow as rapidly as possible to be accessible to both young people and adults, but to drive that growth on a firm basis together with increasing quality in provision. Of the 2.8 million South Africans between the ages of 18 and 24 who were (in 2007) not in employment, education or training, two million (71%) had not achieved Grade 12. Of these 0.5m (18%) had not progressed beyond primary school. Dr Nzimande further added that the college community therefore, must expand its horizons and see the world beyond individual institutions and campuses, whilst at the same time not losing sight of building each institution as a centre of excellence. He indicated that the Summit should focus on strengthening the relationship between FET colleges and employers, both in the public and private sectors. The question of facilitating work placement for college students and graduates must be at the heart of the sector’s skills development strategies.

Dr Nzimande referred to the difficulties that the FET sector has experienced over the past few years, which include but are not limited to:

·         Loss of lecturers from colleges, low morale and a high vacancy rate.

·         Poor learner performances, with low pass rates and high drop-out rates.

·         Increasing reliance on private sector for skills training, coupled with a growing loss of confidence in public sector provision.

·         Institutional instability and labour instability.

·         Severe financial difficulties.

Dr Nzimande was of the view that these challenges and complexities must not lead to further lamentations; instead they should make the sector to focus on practical and concrete solutions to these problems. The principal task is that of growing a quality FET college sector; and this is a non-negotiable.

Key activities over the next five years to improve responsiveness to the needs of the economy will therefore include the following:

·         Significant expansion of the FET college sector.

·         Programme offerings will be expanded, not only strengthening the NCV programmes, but also expanding the N type programmes, especially to absorb matriculants without university endorsement.

·         Training partnerships with industry will be funded through SETAs.

·         Partnerships with employers will be established.

·         A work placement programme for graduates of FET colleges will be established.

The Minister stated that the post-summit processes will be critical. The Department will inform all colleges of the recommendations of the Summit, and of the Ministers subsequent decisions, and will work intensively with provinces and prioritised colleges and programmes to provide support for their operational planning for 2011 and for the implementation in the longer term of the summit outcomes. The outcomes of this summit will ultimately inform a Green Paper which will survey the post-school education and training landscape and set out the policy and legislative changes needed to support our strategic objectives.

 

4. Higher Education South Africa’s (HESA) Perspective on the Post School Education (PSE) System

Prof D Malaza: CEO, HESA led the presentation which highlighted the following key issues:

·         The challenges in the new post school education system includes the development of a PSE system to deliver on a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path and to coordinate subsystems in HE, FET and SETAs and to deliver on credible institutional mechanisms for skills planning and access to intermediate and high level learning.

·         HESA’s strategic commitments includes, achieving high levels of responsiveness and relevance, promoting a dynamic evolution of a differentiated HE system and advocating for funding arrangements that facilitate institutional differentiation.

·         The HESA Task Team on the PSE system is expected to develop a sector position paper on a PSE system appropriate for the national development agenda, which will outline the nature of the interface between HE and the FET sector.

·         Priority issues identified by the HESA Task Team for further engagements include, curriculum for the FET college sector (how it links to HE), funding of post school education and training systems and strategies for increasing post school educational opportunities.

·         HESA will form a Task Team on the PSE workshop on 8 October 2010.

·          A capacity development project is in place through a partnership between the United States of America and South Africa targeting 12 FET colleges.

 

5. Steering Committee Presentation to the FET Summit

Prof M Metcalfe: Director-General, Department of Higher Education and Training and Chairperson of the Steering Committee led the presentation which highlighted the following key issues:

·         The FET College Roundtable was convened to identify and address challenges faced by the FET sector. A Steering Committee consisting of various stakeholders was established to report to the FET Summit on recommendations of the Roundtable.

·         The key recommendations of the Roundtable included a new policy vision and legislative framework for the colleges that should locate the public FET colleges sector within a single policy and legal framework for compulsory education and training. The policy should map the relationship between colleges, SETAs and HEIs, and FET colleges will have a dual mission meaning that they should provide large numbers of school leavers and out of school youth with access to occupational programmes that can enhance employability or lead to job creation.

·         In terms of the governance and legal context the transfer of colleges is the priority of the Department. The legislation is not likely to be introduced before the end of 2011, therefore the Further Education and Training Act remains in place.

·         In terms of the way forward, the Steering Committee will consolidate the FET Summit Report that will be distributed to all stakeholders and presented to the Minister by 7th October 2010. The Task Teams will visit all colleges and brief staff regarding the outcomes of the FET Summit.

 

6. Consolidated Feedback from Working Groups

a) Feedback: Policy

Most of the delegates did not have sufficient opportunity to engage with the Task Team reports on the policy issue. However, it was argued that the role of the provinces must be properly articulated if colleges are to be a national function.

b) Feedback: Students

It was recommended that there is need to strengthen student support services and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) should be prioritized. The student fee portion for programmes needs to be lowered as poor students cannot afford the current 20% required.

 

 

c) Feedback: Management of the Employer-Employee Relationship

There was a general consensus that there should be one employer (DHET) in the FET sector and an appropriate bargaining council. The review of the National Certificate Vocational (NCV) should take note of the lecturing staff workload. A short-term recommendation is the finalization of phase 2 of the new salary dispensation and permanent appointments of acting positions in FET colleges.

d) Feedback Programmes

It was felt that there is a need for a more detailed analysis of the future of the N programmes and the NCV must be reviewed. A long term recommendation is that colleges need to be capacitated to offer their full programme quality management (funding, infrastructure and staff / management capacity).

e) Feedback: Quality

It was recommended that there is a need to consider how to introduce a total quality management system to ensure quality delivery of all programmes and short courses. A short-term recommendation is the need to improve teaching and learning. Finalisation of the lecturer qualifications policy was identified as very critical for lecturer development.

f) Feedback Funding

There was a concern about the availability of budget for colleges to perform in terms of the required mandate. The shortage of funding has led to the crisis in the sector. There is a need to operationalise the SETA and NSF funding mechanism in a way that ensures that colleges have the capacity to deliver against their obligations. There is a need to review the costing model which takes into account inequities across colleges and budget shortfalls. Colleges must be capacitated to engage with SETAs and access funds and college financial management capacity must be improved.

g) Feedback: Implementation

A long term recommendation in this regard is the management information system and the need to undertake a functional analysis of college organograms in order to promote equity across the system. It was noted that there were very good recommendations from all Task Teams. However, they lacked the “how” part.  More clarity was required in terms of how the articulation will take place with the Department of Higher Education.

 

7. Summit Discussions

 It was noted that change management is a good idea that has to be seriously considered in FET colleges. However, the challenge is that there is no clear articulation on performance indicators for FET college staff.

It emerged that Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) was not properly articulated during the discussion sessions and it was urged that the department should set clear time frames for the implementation of RPL as a priority programme to accredit people with workplace experience.

It was highlighted that the issue of one employer in FET colleges is fundamental. However, with the FET Act as the current legislation for FET colleges, the proposed legislation should be prioritized to curb the current tensions that exist in FET colleges.

It was emphasized that the current funding norms for FET colleges do not set the balance between growth and quality, and as a result, FET colleges do not meet their targets.

It was noted with concern that the FET Act has no articulate definition for college campuses and as a result, satellite campuses are less prioritized and resourced.

In terms of implementation of the Summit outcomes, the department indicated that it might receive the constitutional amendment from the Department of Justice in a period of six months which will assist the department to progress swiftly with the transfer of colleges from provinces to national. College Councils remain the employer of FET college staff as stipulated in the legislation until such amendment has been made.

College Councils are not bargaining forums for FET colleges and the Education and Labour Relations Council (ELRC) is a bargaining council for the FET sector and all tensions in colleges are referred to the Council for consideration. It is against the law that Council members present political interests in Council forums rather than capacity building to the college.

There was a general consensus that inadequate student support services have affected the throughput rate of FET colleges. Work placement tools for graduates’ remain a challenge for most FET colleges.

The lack of a clear plan on teacher development for FET lecturers contributes to the poor pass rate in colleges and the fact that there is less representivity of college lecturers in the Summit is a concern.

It was noted that there will be a national career guidance call centre that will be aimed at reaching learners from remote rural areas and it will offer career advice for needy learners.

The N courses are critical for an occupational pathway and the department will update them with a view to provide different purposes.

Teaching and learning should work together and there is a need to understand that lecturers come from different backgrounds hence they have various weaknesses. There is a need to understand student’s background and complexities before making any comparisons.

There was proposal to move away from school type exams to lecture form exams with a view to professionalise college lecturers.

In terms of lecturer development colleges, 28% of lecturers have real workplace experience and 72% don’t have any. In a recent survey, 45% of college lecturers indicated that they do not require workplace training.

FET colleges should enroll learners according to the resources they have. The main challenge is that most colleges enroll learners without considering the financial capacity and resources to meet their demands.

SETAs should not be viewed as money making schemes and they serve as a very important link between the employer and new entrants in the workplace. There was a proposal that SETAs should form part of the Task Team that will be visiting all colleges to present the outcomes of the Summit.

 

8. Minister’s Closing Remarks

In his closing remarks Dr B Nzimande: Minister of Higher Education and Training highlighted the following key issues:

·         There is a need to convene an urgent meeting of the College Councils to come up with clear proposals of differentiation with a clear timeframe and a framework for RPL.

·         Articulation of the post school education challenges is very important to determine the future of this sector. By doing so, the department will not be lowering standards; rather it will increase to Post School Education.

·         Artisan training should be priority training in all FET colleges. There is a need to consider provincial summits to bring all employers and industry players into one forum.

·         Universities have a very important role in training and development of lecturers’ even industries. There should be innovative methods formulated for lecturer development.

·         The expectations of the FET sector and the review of the N courses are at the centre of the agenda of the department as it expands. The National Skills Fund (NSF) and SETAs will play a very important role in the expansion of FET colleges progress.

·         There is a need for a very strong partnership between private sector and the FET sector.

·         College principals should implement the Summit outcomes at their colleges.

·         Fight against corruption at FET colleges should be prioritized as the sector expands to meet its mandate and objectives.

 

9. Conclusion

The Summit featured some of the most distinguished and respectable role players of the FET, HE and business sector who each provided valuable insight into the discussions during the break away groups and Summitproceedings. The most recurring and strongest theme was that of differentiation in FET colleges. Below are some of the critical key points that surfaced during the Summit proceedings:

·         The role of provinces must be unpacked further if colleges are to be a national competence.

·         The issue of RPL needs to be seriously addressed and clear timeframes for its implementation should be articulated.

·         The student fee proportion for programmes needs to be lowered as poor students cannot afford the current 20% required.

·         There was general consensus that there should be one employer in the FET sector.

·         There is a need for a more detailed analysis of the future of the N programmes and the NCV must be reviewed.

·         Lecturer development needs to be directly addressed and the lecturer qualifications policy needs to be finalized.

·         Concern was raised about the availability of budget for colleges to perform in terms of the required mandate. The NSF and SETAs should assist colleges to access funds.

·         Concern was also raised regarding the delay in proposed legislation aimed to curb current tensions in colleges.

Report to be considered

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