Centres of Specialisation

The Centres of Specialisation Programme is a Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) initiative designed to meet two objectives simultaneously:

Firstly to address the demand for priority trades needed for the implementation of government’s National Development Plan in general and its National Infrastructure Plan more particularly; and secondly to contribute towards the building of the capacity of its public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College system to deliver trade qualifications with employer partners. The latter is in line with the Minister of Higher Education and Training’s ‘White Paper for Post-School Education and Training: Building an Expanded, Effective and Integrated Post-School System’ (hereafter WP) which states:

‘Since the main purpose of the TVET colleges is to prepare students for the workplace and/or self-employment, it is essential that they develop and maintain close working relationships with employers in their areas of study. Close partnerships between colleges and employers will assist the colleges to locate opportunities for work-integrated learning and help them to place students when they complete their qualifications.’ (WP: 16)

The Programme aims to do this by focusing on the development of thirteen priority trades that have been identified as being in strong demand for the infrastructure programmes as well as for other strategic programmes such as the War on Leaks and the new ocean economy programme, Phakisa.

If government agrees to invest in nuclear energy, then many of the same trades will be needed for that investment too. The development of the thirteen priority trades will be through the implementation of the new Quality Council for Trades and Occupation’s (QCTO) trade qualifications. It is envisaged that this will be a quantum step up from the past in so far as they are national qualifications – no longer sector-specific as in the past1 – and will be delivered using the dual system approach whereby learners will move between a college and a workplace over the duration of their period of study and prior to taking their trade test.

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The Programme will involve a wide range of stakeholders, ranging from a selected number of TVET colleges chosen to be Centres of Specialisation for one or more of the thirteen priority trades, to employer associations and ‘occupational teams’ with special expertise in one or other of the priority trades. These principal actors will be supported by the DHET which has set up seven dedicated policy-focused teams whose function is to develop national guidelines for the roll-out of these qualifications. The QCTO itself will also play a central role in setting the standard for the accreditation of the Centres and for moderating the trade test assessments undertaken. A strong drive on quality will thread through the Programme from day one.

The Programme is planned to unfold over four distinct phases: firstly, the Centres of Specialisation will be selected and the measures required to lift their performance in line with the policy prescripts set and the targets required by government; secondly, key partners will be contracted to work at college level to implement the measures needed as determined in the first phase; in the third phase the measures will be implemented and in the fourth and final phase learners will be recruited and the programmes executed.

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