Western Cape Education MEC Cameron Dugmore has announced further options for young people in acquiring skills, which were previously not easily accessible for historically disadvantaged communities. After a meeting with top officials of the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authorities (merSeta), MEC Dugmore said agreement was reached to establish two extra schools of excellence in welding, and a school of excellence for motor, mechanical and automotive engineering.
This announcement comes just after the launch of a R2,85 million investment in an International Welding School of Excellence at the West Coast College Vredenburg Campus of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).
This welding school is the only such school in the province, and the second of its kind in South Africa, the other one being situated in the Eastern Cape. Now another two such schools are planned - one to be situated in the metro and the other in the rural areas.
The establishment of these schools is in line with the Government's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (AsgiSA), and the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa); as well as the Provincial Government's vision and mission.
The initiative will be funded by both parties, and extra funds will be sourced from Jipsa. MEC Dugmore expressed his appreciation to merSeta and its CEO Dr Raymond Patel, for their commitment to the government's objective of halving unemployment and poverty by 2014.
Said MEC Dugmore: "About three years ago, when Sasol had to refurbish their plants, they had to import two-thousand engineers. Similarly, at the time of the construction of Mossgas, large capital projects also relied on imported skills - this at the cost of employing the local community.
"However, the new schools will address the limited access to world class skills training. With the welding school in the West Coast, that community stands to benefit to enter the available skilled jobs after successfully completing training at the centre.
"The school could not have come at a better time, especially with the emerging of a fabrication hub designed to cater for oil and gas related port side infrastructure. This is an exciting project, which offers renewed opportunities for young people, as well as up-skilling existing welders towards achieving the necessary qualifications.
"The school covers the erection of 25 fully equipped welding training bays to international standards; the training of three internationally accredited instructors; accreditation as a Training Body by the International Institute of Welding (IIW); and the implementation of the IIW training curriculum. Clearly this is top-of-the-range stuff, which will hugely boost the government's skills provisioning efforts.
"Almost half of the learners who enter the system in grade one, do not make it to matric. Instead of dropping out, this institute and others to follow, will offer our youth with renewed opportunities of skills provisioning at an FET college. This school will therefor play an important role in the Human Capital Development Strategy of the Western Cape, particularly in the West Coast.
"Our key objective with the strategy, is to increase participation and success rates of our youth in FET colleges and higher education institutions, especially for learners from poor communities.
"In recent years, we have remodeled the FET college sector to form a key component of the national education system, to ensure a well-balanced selection of education options. This included a major national recapitalisation programme to ensure that FET colleges have the necessary resources.
"Last year the provincial government provided R25-million for student loans to improve access to FET colleges for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, as part of the iKapa Elihlumayo strategy.
"More than 8,000 students have already taken advantage of the interest-free loan scheme in the Western Cape so far. Funds are still available for loans this year, as well as various bursary schemes.
"The national Department of Education has provided an additional R9-million to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) for an FET Financial Aid Scheme, which is now also available for 2007.
"In terms of our Human Capital Development Strategy, we plan to increase the number of students at FET colleges from 60,000 currently to 180,000 by 2014, and the establishment of more vocational schools will certainly play a key role.
"The provisioning of skills by the FET college sector will foster employability, especially among the unemployed population, of which 50% are between the ages of 16 and 24 years - the young people.
"With the recapitalization of the FET sector, we also seek to ensure seamless articulation between General and Further Education in schools, and Higher Education Institutions; facilitate education and training for the Department of Labour; and make FET in colleges progressively available.
"In the Western Cape, we have also made provision for the appointment of second tier managers (deputy CEOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs); as well as developing new staffing norms.
"The biggest challenge in terms of skills provisioning, however is the fact that we are not producing sufficient numbers of matrics qualifying for entrance to higher education, especially from historically disadvantaged communities; and matrics with mathematics and science.
"That is why I am going to insist on schools setting targets for 2007. I expect high schools to set an overall pass target, endorsements, increased Maths and Science passes, as well as reduced drop-out rate targets. These targets must be formally signed off by the School Governing Body, including the RCL representatives and announced very soon."
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