Vocational training: Bridging the skills gap and providing access to top careers

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Hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of South African Matrics from the Class of 2022 are currently facing the challenge of deciding on their next steps, having not been successful in securing a university space. Because while the country’s public universities have received more than 4 million applications, there are less than 163 000 spaces available.

But an education expert says that while not getting space at a university might seem like a setback at first, it could in fact be a blessing in disguise, as there is a tremendous skills gap in the country, predominantly in the vocational space, and that young people should seriously consider their options in this regard.

“Vocational training has been shown to provide a number of benefits, including increased employability, great earning potential, as well as a faster and more direct path to a fulfilling career,” says Siyavuya Makubalo, Marketing Manager at Oxbridge Academy, a private college that serves more than 20 000 South African distance learning students every year.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training courses (TVET) are occupational by nature. In other words, the student receives education and training focused on a specific range of trades. Attending a TVET college has many advantages, including a strong emphasis on students’ employability. Part of the curriculum requires the students to complete experiential training, which helps them build up experience for their CV and enables them to connect theories and methodologies learned in the classroom to real-world situations from early in their training. Vocational training is also completed in a shorter period of time, allowing young people to start earning sooner rather than later.

Vocational careers include, but are not limited to, electrician, motor mechanic, boilermaker, plumber, beautician, bookkeeper, computer programmer, graphic designer, office assistant, childminder and HR practitioner, to name only a few of the options. Many of these fields will also allow you to start your own business, which will make you less dependent on the current state of the job market at any given time.

“There is a huge demand for artisans, and technical and vocational professionals in South Africa just like in the rest of the world, Makubalo says.

“Vocational training programmes provide students with the specific skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a particular field, making them more attractive to employers, which in turn leads to a higher likelihood of finding a job. This is because prospective employers know that these applicants have completed specialised training, have worked in the field, and is able to start in the new role immediately with minimum on-the-job instruction.”


The great news for prospective students considering vocational training at a TVET college, is that they can often complete their course within a year or less, and study via distance learning, which means that they are able to start earning a living even while studying. Furthermore, TVET courses are much more affordable than 3-year degrees, costing a fraction of what a university qualification costs.

“For some South Africans, the idea of earning a university degree still remains an ideal based on legacy perceptions and prestige. However parents and young people should consider the real-world situation and think about the best path forward based on demands in the industry, the specific strengths and aspirations of the prospective student, and the likelihood of a qualification providing entry into a field with good earning potential,” says Makubalo.

“So our message to young people who didn’t land a space at university, is that there is a world of options – and arguably potentially better options than your initial Plan A – that you can still pursue.”