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University education still an advantage over TVETs in SA job market

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Deputy minister Buti Manamela at the Kaya FM studio.

Young people in South Africa should opt for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges as they are “much” more likely to be employed, a minister has said.   

Buti Manamela, the deputy minister of higher education and training, urged parents not to pressure their children to only consider universities.

“I really want to call on young people who are doing their Grade 12. Go to a TVET college,” Manamela said on a radio show in July 2018. He was promoting a skills challenge organised under the five-country Brics grouping.

“The prospect of being employed as a TVET college graduate is much higher [than] that of a university graduate,” he said. The deputy minister added that this was “because companies are looking for people who already have exposure to what they’ll be doing”.  

The minister’s comment was made in the context of the technical courses offered at TVET colleges that related to scarce skills, Matshepo Seedat, a media liaison officer in the department, told Africa Check.

Graduates have ‘a far better’ chance of a job

Graduates from universities have an advantage in the job market, a professor of economics at the University of Stellenbosch, Servaas van der Berg, told Africa Check.

“University graduates have a far better probability of getting a job than graduates from TVET [colleges],” said Van der Berg. He co-authored a study that looked at graduate unemployment in South Africa from 1995 to 2011.

The most recent data from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) shows that university graduates have the lowest rate of unemployment in the country.

In the first three months of 2018, 7.9% of graduates were unemployed. Stats SA classifies a graduate as a person who went to a university or college and obtained a post-higher diploma, a bachelor’s degree, a post-graduate diploma or an honours, master’s or doctoral degree.

In comparison nearly double the share of people who obtained an “other tertiary education” -15.6% - were unemployed. These are people who attended a TVET college or another tertiary institution and obtained a certificate, diploma (with or without matric) or a higher diploma.

Unemployment rate by education level in South Africa (Q1 2018)

Education levelUnemployment Rate
Less than matric31.1%
Other tertiary education15.6%
Graduate 7.9%

Source: Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (Quarter 1: 2018)

University graduates are still ahead, said Dr Mary Mmatsatsi Madileng, a project manager at the Centre for researching education and labour at the University of the Witwatersrand.

“This might change in time as TVET colleges are restructured,” Madileng said.

Van der Berg added that there might be areas where people from TVETs were more closely matched to jobs and thus had an advantage. “However, we have no evidence yet that that is the case.” - Ina Skosana & Kate Wilkinson (25/07/2018)


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