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Opinion Piece on The Preference of TVET College and University of Technology Students over those from Traditional Universities

The Preference of TVET College and University of Technology Students over those from Traditional Universities

By AnswertheCall Team


There is a sentiment amongst the general public that employers prefer students who enrolled at traditional academic universities over those who went to alternative higher learning institutions, such as TVET Colleges and Universities of Technology. This sentiment stems from previously disproportionate unemployment rates between holders of academic degrees and those who acquired a qualification at alternative higher learning institutions. However most recently the gap between the two has lessened according to the most recent Stats SA figures. Before we explore why employers may prefer TVET and University of Technology students over those from academic universities, it is important to outline the difference between what is offered in these institutions.

In South Africa, there are three main institutions where you can study after you complete your high school education: Universities, Universities of Technology and TVET colleges. Universities offer degree courses that take three to four years to complete, with specific stringent entrance requirements that vary vastly from course to course. University courses focus more on theoretical training in a specialized field. Students increase their level of specialization in that specific field by studying for longer periods of time, earning post-graduate degrees such as Honours, Masters, or Doctorates. The technical knowledge earned through large volumes of theoretical studying is what increases their value in their respective fields. According to ‘blog.oxford.co.za,’ Universities of Technology offer mainly diploma and certificate courses, but also offer degree courses that take about three years to complete. A University of Technology places emphasis on innovative problem-solving and career-directed courses, in addition to the basic responsibilities of a university. The courses are designed to be career-orientated and practical, with experiential learning forming an essential part of the academic endeavours. Students therefore obtain both theoretical and practical expertise in their respective fields. TVET is an abbreviation that stands for Technical and Vocational Education and Training. The training at TVET colleges varies from a period of a few months to three years, with students generally receiving a certificate at the end of their studies. The focus is on educating and training students by having them work in technical or vocational fields. Students are not only provided with academic knowledge by TVET institutions, but also practical experience to enable them to enter the workforce as quickly and as well-equipped as possible. This is what attracts prospective employers the most about the TVET and University of Technology skills development model. The assurance that students will enter the workplace with practical experience, which assures a seamless transition of the candidate from being a student to being an employee. This is particularly important in fields such as engineering, logistics, mining, tourism, and banking, which are the biggest providers of vocational learnership programmes. They prefer students who possess both technical and practical expertise for employment in their respective organizations. Employers in these fields prefer students from TVET colleges and University of Technology institutions over those from academic universities. Their employment base encompasses majority students from these institutions, due to the nature of their operations requiring both practical and theoretical expertise from employees.

Well, in our opinion we see this as quite inequitable. Students should be granted the same opportunities regardless of the type of institution they come from. Some may have more practical experience, some may have more theoretical experience, and both can still be successful in their specific fields. These factors have created a large employment drive for students from TVET Colleges and University of Technology institutions over students from universities. This is seen as an initiative to redress inequality and lower the unemployment rate in the country. However, unemployment among the youth remains high, and these student recruitment strategies have failed to make a lasting impact. They fixed one problem with another problem.  All tertiary educational institutions are funded heavily by government, and it is only proper that such investment should result in higher employment. Countries such as Germany, China, Sweden, and the United States place equal emphasis on academics as well as vocational training, as both are required in a properly functioning economy.  Preferring one over the other is unsustainable and a waste of resources

We can talk about how this is affecting not only the economy but the unemployment rate that won’t dwindle or we can talk about the real issue here which is that students are faced with with many challenges. As soon as they step out of university they are faced with ‘3 years’ experience needed, but how when you just completed your qualification?

There is a vast skills shortage within the country that doesn’t help in the alleviation of unemployment. Workplaces do not want to teach, groom or mentor anymore. All they are in search of is someone that’s going to help elevate their company and fast. What they do not see is that this is the number one reason the unemployment rate is where it’s at today.

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