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Public Works invests in skills development

Updated: Jul 12, 2018

The aim of the National De- velopment Plan is to create a capable state, with citizens

who have the right skills and com- petencies to grow South Africa’s economy.

According to the Department of Public Works (DPW) Chief Director for Professional Services Vangile Manzini, the DPW’s initiatives to pro- mote educational excellence and create jobs aim to provide some of these skills and competencies. Manzini said that to break apartheid’s chains that still hold South Africa back, 24 years into democracy,“we need a radical approach to implement skills interventions, starting at primary schools”.

In 2008, the Council for the Built Environment commissioned a study to examine the skills gap. The study unearthed a number of issues. It found that school learners’ poor performance in mathematics and physical science was impeding the growth of skills required in the sector.

“Based on the findings of the study, the council developed a Built Environment Skills Pipeline Strategy which looked at how the sector could intervene in the school system to improve performance in maths and science,” Manzini explained.

Another problem identified was that not many learners studied maths and science as major subjects in high school. As a result, the built environment is competing for the same cohort of learners who are needed by other sectors such as science and technology, aviation, the medical field and mining. In addition, not all learners who took maths and science in matric qualified for admission to universities.

“For this reason, the DPW decided to establish a unit that will focus on technical capacity building and human capital,” she said.

Boosting learner performance

To address these challenges, the department established a schools programme to support top performers in Grades 10, 11 and 12.

Manzini said the DPW works with education district offices across the country to identify schools with a pass rate that exceeds 65 percent in maths and science.

“The schools must be on farms, in rural areas and townships as the department does not target former Model C schools for this programme,” explained Manzini.

Selected schools identify its top Grade 8 learners, who are then enlisted into the programme until matric. The learners attend daily tutorial classes in maths and science. They also attend weekend tutorials through- out the year.

“For the past two years, we also had an English intervention … One year we had a learner who did very well in maths and science but obtained level three for English. Sadly, she could not be admitted to universities because of her English marks. She did not meet the criteria. We had a bursary ready for the learner but she could not use it.”

“We then realised that some of our learners, if not most, would do well in the technical subjects but not well enough in English, so we decided to help with English also,” she said.

Manzini explained that part of the programme targets school leadership, to ensure that the schools are run ef- fectively and efficiently. It also includes teacher development programmes to help educators improve the way they teach subjects to produce better results.

“This is a critical part of the pro- gramme because the teacher remains with the school while the learner leaves after matric. If teach- ers are empowered, they are able to deliver better in the classroom for all learners, including those who are not part of the programme,” she said.

Opening the doors of learning

Learners who make the cut with their matric results get bursaries from the DPW to further their studies. The beneficiaries pursue careers in engineering (civil, structural, transport, electrical, water care, mechanical, chemical and hydrology), analytical chemistry, construction manage- ment, quantity surveying, architecture, landscape architecture, urban and regional planning, interior design, hor- ticulture, actuarial science or property studies.

Since 2014, the department has issued bursaries to about 288 youth across the country. This year alone, 30 students are attending various universities. The bursary is valued at R130 000 for each learner, per year, and cov- ers tuition, accommodation, meals, textbooks, academic resources and a monthly allowance. This translates into R3.9 million invested in first year students.

“Our bursary scheme is intended for traditional universities, although we do have a few students at universities of technology,” said Manzini.

Bonolo Rakgalakana, 18, is one of Mamelodi Secondary School’s top performing learners who received a bursary from DPW. She is studying towards a degree in mechanical

engineering at the University of Cape Town.

Rakgalakana thought her dreams would have to be put on hold as her parents could not afford to pay university fees.

“My older sister passed her matric very well, but my parents did not have money to send her to university so she took a gap year. She applied for and got a job at the defence force. I thought fate had the same in store for me … but I studied hard and made my goals clear and trusted God, and then I received a bursary from the DPW,” said Rakgalakana.

The Rakgalakana family experi- enced pride and joy twice be- cause Bonolo’s twin sister, Koketso, was a top student in the same class and also earned a bursary from the department. The sisters each passed seven subjects with distinctions.

“We did not have access to the internet, library books and good sport fields, but we attended extra morning and after-school classes as matriculants,” she said.

Young Professionals Programme

Once the students have obtained their qualifications from universities, they receive field training in the form of internships and mentorship as part of the programme.

“The students come at different stages because some have to obtain their Master’s degrees to be registered as professionals. They go through the internship programme before they can qualify for the candidacy programme, and they must also register with the council for candidature,” she said.

From being candidates they move to the Young Professionals Programme were they are given more responsibilities. If they pass that stage, they are assessed in various ways. Some will write reports, other councils assess them through examinations, and some go for interviews to be registered as qualified professionals.

Manzini said about 255 young people have benefited from the programme.

Artisan Development Programme

The DPW owns about 130 000 properties and land parcels which makes it South Africa’s biggest property owner. Manzini said the department needs more artisans for it to take care of maintenance and repairs. Since the implementation of the Artisan Development Programme in 2015, the department has suc- cessfully registered about 53 artisans, while 308 have participated in the programme.

Students who want to become ar- tisans have to enrol with technical vocational education and training colleges and complete studies from levels N4 to N6. As part of the programme they are assigned to projects for training for 18 months to three years.

After that they have to go through preparatory trade training which prepares them for the trade test.

“In January, about 110 of our stu- dents obtained their Artisan Trade Certificates. The trainees have ob- tained Trade Test Certificates in the construction industry and are now qualified artisans,” said Manzini.

She said the department is adver- tising vacancies in-house so that it can absorb the new artisans.

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