Partnerships are key to upskilling SA youth

South Africa’s further education and training (FET) institutions and private sector companies have to form innovative partnerships to successfully address the country’s twin challenge of a critical skills shortage coupled with high youth unemployment.

Sparrow FET College was founded in 2010 to provide a theoretical, practical, and real-world application approach to skills development and training for learners from a disadvantaged background.

The college is a social enterprise that works with both government and private companies to identify which skills are in demand, and to train learners in these areas – including in construction, engineering, hospitality and IT – with the outcome being an accredited NQF level qualification.

A fundamental difference at Sparrow is that educators go beyond just what’s in the curriculum; not only are they experts in their field, but they bring their own life experience into the classroom and provide learners with a mentor or role model to look up to. This includes coaching learners in areas such as life skills, financial literacy and more.

Learners also cover practical parts of the curriculum content in a simulated workplace environment to better prepare them for the real-world workplace – be it a workshop or a chef’s kitchen.

In addition, while learners completing their studies across many of the country’s FET colleges are left to try and find companies willing to provide them with internships by themselves, Sparrow works with industry partners to place students, where they get further training, learn to adapt to the workplace environment, and are prepared for future employment.

Our placement process starts with a psychometric assessment, and continues onto monitoring by job coaches to ensure students continue to develop and are capable of carrying out their duties at the workplace.

We feel this is where the college’s success lies – it’s done to strike a balance between our social responsibility needs, with the requirement of companies for competent and reliable employees – and build a sustainable relationship between the college and industry partners.

South Africa’s amended broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) codes have already placed a strong emphasis on skills development, with a priority on women and marginalised disabled youth –  both from the existing workforce, and unemployed, previously disadvantaged youth.

But by working closer together, the country’s FET colleges and private sector can build fruitful partnerships that go beyond simply meeting compliance requirements and actually make a meaningful effort toward creating inclusive, growth driven opportunities for South Africa’s youth.

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