GETC will steer young South Africans into vocational and occupational training

Marco Maree, Expert Training and Development Advisor of Triple E Training

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The proposed General Education and Training Certificate (GETC), if implemented correctly, is a way of steering more talented young South Africans into vocational and occupational training.

This will help to address the dire shortage of qualified artisans. At present, we are nowhere near to producing the targeted 30 000 qualified artisans every year by 2030. This is a goal that is clearly articulated in both the National Development Plan and the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training. The country needs these skills to execute the much-anticipated Strategic Infrastructure Projects. This is opposed to importing them as has been the case on many strategic infrastructure projects thus far.

The proposed grade 9 certificate is modelled on the GETC: Adult Education and Training (AET) learnership. This is considering the role that it has played in inspiring many young employees and unemployed individuals to pursue artisanry as a profession. They have excelled in their chosen fields because they are better suited to this type of work.

“Many of these individuals did not complete their basic education simply because they are not academically inclined. Struggling to keep pace with other learners in their class, they became frustrated; lost morale, self confidence and esteem; and eventually simply dropped out. With very little to offer a modern economy in way of skills, many of these learners join the growing number of unemployed youths. Worse still, many are also not in education and training. Others manage to find work as general labourers or in the informal industries with very little opportunity to develop careers or grow as individuals – if it were not for AET. A term often used to describe these individuals is the ‘working poor’, one of the main drivers of high inequality in the country,” Marco Maree, Expert Training and Development Advisor of Triple E Training, says.

Triple E Training is the foremost provider of training for the GETC: AET, having equipped many low- and unskilled workers and unemployed youth with basic education or “soft” skills. This is in addition to the role that the company’s training serves as the basis upon which “hard” skills are developed during occupational and vocational training. Many of these individuals only discovered their talents and decided how best to use them while completing the GETC: AET learnership. With help from their employers and Triple E Training, they were steered onto suitable learning paths.

In the foreseeable future, learners who pass grade 9 will be able to exit school with a GETC. This signals to potential employers that they have attained fundamental skills at a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 1. This is sufficient to perform some entry level and general work. Currently, learners who leave school after passing grade 9 do not receive acknowledgement for their competency in basic education skills at this level of the NQF.

However, Maree warns that the GETC must not be viewed as an “exit” certificate as this could potentially exacerbate youth unemployment. Currently, 40% of South African learners drop out of school. The dropout rate across each school grade is about 4,5% with most occurring from grades 9 through to 11.

“Many of our clients, especially those operating in the manufacturing industry, are increasingly moving away from employing low- and unskilled workers – even for entry level and general work. They appoint us to equip existing staff who have not completed basic education with skills equivalent to someone who has passed grade 9. Thereafter, these employees will go on to learn for an NQF 4 qualification, pursuing more practical paths than a conventional adult matric to do so. These include vocational and occupational training from NQF 2. It is also mandatory for employees to first complete our Quality Council for Trades and Occupations- (QCTO) accredited foundational learning competence training before enrolling for any of QCTO’s new occupational qualifications. This is considering the rapidly changing nature of general work which now also relies heavily on ‘soft’ skills. Depending on the level of sophistication of some production lines, these skills have become just as or even more important than ‘hard’ or technical proficiencies. While many machines have the ability to replace ‘hard’ skills, they do not possess emotional intelligence and cannot think logically, critically and creatively, among other ‘soft’ skills,” Maree says.

Rather, he says, the GETC should be viewed as a means of access to alternative learning paths for those individuals who are not interested in pursuing conventional academic learning. Therefore, the introduction of the qualification needs to be supported by improved career counselling at school. This has been lacking with many learners aware of the technical trades but unsure of how to access this learning.

Of course, care providers at home must also understand the purpose of the qualification. Unfortunately, many parents still only value a university education, despite the high demand for artisans in the country. Trade skills that are critically needed include bricklayers; electricians; millwrights; boilermakers; plumbers; mechanics and diesel mechanics; carpenters and joiners; welders; riggers; fitters and turners; and mechanical and pipe fitters.

The employment rate for qualifying artisans is relatively good. This is especially for those individuals who qualify via an apprenticeship programme. According to the Department of Higher Education and Training, just under 80% of qualifying artisans are employed. 2% are self-employed and 19% unemployed.

Technical Education and Vocational and Training (TVET) colleges also need to be widely consulted as part of the introduction of the grade 9 qualification. Unfortunately, many individuals who have left school before matric are not accepted by TVET colleges. These colleges prefer to only accept NSC holders because they have higher literacy and numeracy skills. A quality certificate that demonstrates competency in NQF 1 fundamental learning areas may make it easier for TVET colleges to accept individuals who have decided to exit school at grade 9. Notably, there has been a decline in enrolments in public TVET colleges. They require significant investment to raise the quality of education that they offer. This is over-and-above the funding needed to expand the system to meet the NDP’s target of equipping 2,5-million South Africans with vocational skills by 2030.

In the same way that the GETC: AET was developed with input from industry for industry, so too must companies value the proposed grade 9 qualification.

This is considering that even matriculants are finding it increasingly more difficult to secure employment. In the first quarter of 2001, 37,7% of unemployed citizens were matriculants. This increased to 40% in the first quarter of 2022. In the first quarter of 2023, 40,7% of unemployed South Africans had completed basic education. This means that a NSC only granted matriculants a 7,6% improved chance of securing employment. 

“If managed correctly, I believe the proposed GETC will address many shortfalls in the existing school systems that are directly responsible for the skills crisis that we are facing, at present. Importantly, this development also enables the Department of Basic Education to implement an additional quality control in earlier grades to ensure that learners pass grade 9. At present, it is being done too late to ensure that learners do not ‘slip through the cracks’. This could potentially raise the quality of school education, especially in the poor and outlying areas,” Maree concludes.


For more information contact:

David Poggiolini

Debbie Poggiolini


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