The Department of Higher Education, attempting to improve the image of the much-maligned Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, has pledged to invest R2-billion in bursaries for FETs. 
However, according to Sean Jones, a director of the Artisan Training Institute, it will take more than just talk – and more than money – to improve the image of FETs.
He says a growing number of people and organisations believe FETS just don’t “have what it takes” to make an impact on education and lack the ability to turn out quality artisans – something this country sorely needs.

“FETs have been coming under fire for years for non-delivery, for not having the ability to turn out well-rounded artisans,” says Jones.

“Forget about churning out artisans. Yes, there is an apparent shortage of artisans. But, rather than simply chasing numbers, the industry – and FETs in particular – should be focusing on quality.

“What is happening right now is that we are simply not seeing enough quality artisans entering the industry – and a large portion of blame must be placed at the doors of FETs.”

Last week, the Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande pointed out the dire need to train qualified artisans, citing the massive backlog of artisans facing the country. He says the department has set aside almost R2-billion in bursaries for FETs.

However, according to Jones, if the FETs start now it will take around three years to train a well-qualified artisan.

“They also, then, need on-the-job exposure in order to gain experience  but where will they receive this when one ponders that 50 000 jobs were lost in the country, in the formal sector, in the fourth quarter of last year?

“It is admirable to spend money on education. This is always welcomed. But to simply say that the government is going to invest R2-billion with FETs is akin to saying that it is simply going to throw the money out there, and hope that the FETs are able to use it effectively.

“FETs have failed in their mandate to produce enough artisans, let alone artisans who are qualified enough to perform properly in their chosen fields. By simply ring-fencing R2-billion on spending with FETs is pretty meaningless. It is results that count, it is results that we need – and FETs have consistently not being delivering on this score.”