When you first need to train the trainers

Improvements to the effectiveness of the sector education and training authorities (Setas)

July 30, 2012

Improvements to the effectiveness of the sector education and training authorities (Setas), put forward by the government’s green paper on post-school education and training, are laudable – but should be viewed against the potential administrative hitches when it comes to garnering the important public-private co-operation.

This is according to Sean Jones, a director of Ikaya Fundisa Techniskills Academy (IFTA), the black-owned artisan training company bought by Jones and his partner, Mandisa¸for R20 million in 2008

Jones said while the government’s forward-thinking recommendations are “very positive”, administrative bottlenecks could scupper plans to inculcate and achieve public-private co-operation. “The devil is always in the detail and, as always, the best of plans put forward can be waylaid by lumpy or inefficient admin – and this is one of the challenges we will be facing.”

He said that “at the heart “of education and training – and its ultimate success – is the further education training institutions (FETs). “Unfortunately many FETs are sub-standard and when a student leaves with a qualification it is not trusted by businesses out there in the real world. Image-wise, the qualifications don’t carry with them enough value – because the market place generally doubts the efficacy of certain FETs. This is an inherent problem,” said Jones.

He said one of the problems is that a large proportion of trainers just don’t have the “proper insight gained through relevant experience” to fulfill their mandates to train learners properly. “Many of the FET trainers lack the hands-on experience to train properly. We have witnessed cases where an institution has all the necessary equipment, on which to train learners, but lecturers don’t really know how to operate this equipment. So while the necessary funds are being allocated to the institutions, in many cases this equipment is standing idle – and not being used at all.

“This means we need to take a look at the successful institutions, and note just why they are successful – and then get the others to emulate them. But we know, as industry players, that there might first need to be some ‘training of the trainers’ taking place, coupled with extensive hand-holding by industry.”

Jones said he is aware this might be an “unpopular comment”, adding that it is, however, time to “stop pulling punches and fix the real problems”