The Occupational Training Context
The occupational training setting poses unique challenges. Working in this environment, some of the challenges experienced include barebones budgets, limited access to ethically sound accredited trainers, learner readiness and time commitment challenges from industry(amongst others). These factors impose limitations on the modes of training delivery and increase dissatisfaction throughout the training value chain.
The robust growth of the occupational training sector is inevitable. More unemployed cash strapped learners will tap into the system, taking advantage of opportunities created by companies maximising the skills development incentives offered by government.
Technological advances could ease challenges faced, bridging problems and reducing the cost of training, thereby increasing accessibility and profitability. However the prohibitive costs of adapting to a technological environment deters many at various levels. At a grassroots level, many children lack access to resources that would make technology a familiar friend in their environment.
Factors Colouring Our Children and Youth
Understanding the school context is vital for the future of occupationally directed training. The following statistics are from the Good News South Africa website:
Early Childhood Development (ECD)
Early childhood development is a concern as, according to David Harrison CEO of DG Murray Trust, only 1/5th of children from the poorest communities are estimated to be exposed to formal childcare or education outside of the home
- 297 new ECD () centers have been set up and registered in the first quarter of 2011
- According to the 2011 census, 81.2% (45.6%) of 5 year olds, 97% (94.6%) of 9 year olds, 95.8% (95.1%) of 13 year olds and 85.6% (81.5%) of 17 year olds attend an educational establishment. 2001 figures in brackets.
Primary and Secondary School
- SA has 30,000 ordinary public and independent schools. (Department of Basic Education)
- In 1994 only 12,000 schools had electricity. In 2013, approximately 25,000 accessed electricity
- Some 9 million learners receive free cooked meals as part of the National School Nutrition Programme Annual Report 2012/13.
- The matric class of 2013 achieved a pass rate of 78%, a 3.7% improvement from 2012.
Rainbow Nation: The best of times, the worst of times.
South Africa has to cope with the unique legacy of apartheid and a complex aftermath. We find the juxtaposition of highly varied and even conflicting levels of development, and a complex labour market requiring both highly specialist expertise and very basic minimum skills.
The Democratic government has had to fork out more for social welfare and development funding than ever before as financial instruments previously serving the apartheid government had to engage with the poor. In 2010, economist Mike Schussler said that South Africa was the biggest welfare state in the world with an unsustainable 3:1 dependency ratio (three people to one taxpayer).
According to the National Treasury 2014, 188 000 people are contributing one-third of the taxes of South Africa accounting for two-point-eight percent of taxpayers. At the other end of the rainbow, there are eight-and-a-half million registered taxpayers, who pay no tax at all.
The development constraints exist but never before have as many people been able to plug in or have access to grants. Cell phones in particular have made massive inroads into making communication and the access to information accessible, albeit at a cost:
- Access to electricity has increased from 34% in 1994, to 88% in 2012.
- In 1994 2.5 million people had access to social grants, the majority of which were pensioners. In 2013, 16.5 million South Africans benefited from access to social grants, 11.5 million of which were children, 3.5 million pensioners and 1.5 million with disabilities.
- SA has 53 million active cell phones (population 53 million) – ranking in the top 5 globally in terms of cell phone coverage.
- SA has 66 colour TV’s per 100 households, 9 telephone lines per 100 population and 90 mobile telephone subscribers per 100 population. (Economist).
- South Africa has 8.5 computers per 100 population (UK 80, Spain 40, South Korea 47 and USA 80). (Economist).
- SA ranks 31st in terms of internet users per 1000 population. (Economist).
If the future is online, how are we dealing with training the workforce for an increasingly high tech society in all sectors?
Ready or not – the technologically advanced experience is here to stay! Companies agile and viable enough to tap into these changes will more than likely increase their sustainability in the future.
More and more, the training value chain is under pressure to take advantage of recent advances in technology to enhance the achievement, satisfaction and engagement of our occupational training Learners (particularly the unemployed entrants). We also need to capacitate those who deliver at different levels of the occupational training value chain, be they training providers, monitoring bodies, industry and government in order to enhance their ability to tap into the value offered by innovation. In addition, we need to engage with greater transparency and honesty about achievement, from learner to service providers.
Pedagogy – is blended learning too far fetched?
Technological innovations have led to versatile approaches to the delivery of high quality technology based learning programs. With the increasing use of appropriate online pedagogy, technologies are providing real, meaningful and authentic learning. Access to, and the mobility of information, is improving:
Fifty-nine percent of South Africans have access to the Internet in some way. Twenty-seven percent access the online world on their cellphones, 5% on their PC, laptop or tablet, and 27% on both.
(Bonnie Tubbs, ITWeb: 2012)
In a country where access to further education is often limited by economics and geography, how do we meet the needs of our Learners?
You don’t need to be in a classroom to learn.
We need to build educational experiences that capitalise on the capabilities and opportunities presented by new technology. These technologies, although being on the high end of capital investment, can bridge the economic and geographical divide. The challenge is often in how we credit achievement and applied skills in a market that requires training methodologies to become increasingly hybrid.
Occupationally Directed Training and Challenges
The challenge for many organisations specialising in the delivery of occupationally directed qualifications, is dealing with the disparate levels of readiness. They struggle with meeting the varied levels of academic preparedness and technological literacy of their Learners. The occupational training sector in particular deals more with those who don’t conform to the typical student profile, America uses the term ‘non-traditional.’ In South Africa, our non-traditional learners include those with weaker academic profiles but with job specific potential, older workers who lacked access to traditional institutions, recent high school graduates from under resourced community schools, the poor and disconnected who are fortunate enough to be deemed talented.
Occupational training is important in terms of assisting the potential workforce to acquire job or industry competencies, and the knowledge to manage their careers in the rapidly changing challenging space of work. Learners also need to develop skills such as creativity and innovation, social collaboration and networking, resourcefulness and initiative. We need to foster a ‘lifelong learning’ mind set amongst learners so that their job security remains stable over time.
Bonnie Tubbs, ITWeb: 2012:South Africans and their cell phones. http://www.itweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57137
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