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TVET Colleges Explained

by Hannah Maidment

We often hear about TVET college without really understanding what they are, who they’re for and what they do. This article answers these questions. 

Many of us have never heard about TVET colleges and we haven’t even considered it as an alternative form of tertiary education. TVET colleges offer a world of tertiary education options that are different from the more traditional tertiary education, such as university. With 50 public TVET colleges in South Africa and over 260 campuses (say what??) around the country, studying at a TVET college is definitely an option worth considering.

What exactly is a “TVET” college? 

“TVET” stands for technical and vocational education and training, and this is exactly what TVET colleges aim to provide. TVET is a term that is used around the world and it is the part of the education system that combines education, training and skills development. This is to train students with all of the different skills needed for there future job. TVET colleges train you to be skilled in a specific vocation or profession, which makes you hot-stuff to future employers or will allow you to study further at one of SA’s great university of technologies.

The courses offered at TVET colleges have both theoretical and practical components. The theoretical part gives you the knowledge you need to own your chosen career. The practical component of the course helps you by instilling this knowledge by allowing you to learn and teaching you how it is applied to the practical part of your work. Score!

When a qualification is vocational, it means it is related to a specific occupation. This means that if you choose to study towards a qualification in engineering studies, you will be learning how to do a specific job in the engineering field, such as becoming an electrician or diesel mechanic. TVET qualifications in engineering are not the same as engineering qualifications offered by universities. University qualifications are typically aimed at allowing you to work as a professional engineer, where TVET qualifications teach you what you need to know about specific occupations within the engineering field. TVET qualifications in engineering studies can qualify you to study towards a national diploma in engineering and eventually towards a BTech degree, which means you will be able to qualify as a professional engineering technician. This applies to the various practical fields within the vocational courses.

Do I qualify to study at a TVET college?

In order to apply to study at a TVET college, you will have to have successfully completed grade 9 and be at least 16 years old. (Some of the qualifications have more subject specific requirements than offered at a grade 9 level.) This means that you are able to study at a TVET college without a conventional matric so that you can start working towards a specific career from the age of 16 and enter the work force at a younger age.

Access to post-school education is one of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET’s) major concerns. Because of this, the DHET have started the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which is aimed at helping students who do not have the financial means to study at a TVET college or public university. Currently, through this scheme, R10 billion is available to support students who are pursuing a post-school education. Students who meet the entry requirements to study at such a college and qualify for a loan will need to pay back the loan to NSFAS, but, depending on your marks, up to 40% percent of your loan can become a bursary that you are not expected to pay back.

What can I study at a TVET college? 

TVET colleges offer an extremely wide range of vocational courses, preparing students for a number of careers. There are four main types of qualifications offered at TVET colleges: the National Certificate Vocational, NC(V) qualifications, the Report 191 Programmes, the National Introductory Certificate (N4) and National Certificates (N4).

National Certificate Vocational – NC(V) 

NC(V) programmes begin after grade 9 and are typically three-year programmes that take you from an NQF level 2 qualification (grade 9) to an NQF level 4 qualification. This is the same level as a traditional matric, which means that you are able to apply to study at most universities of technology and to some university courses.

NC(V) programmes consist of seven subjects, two recognised languages, one mathematical subject, life orientation and three elective subjects. The elective subjects are where most of your specialised education and training will take place. Once you have completed an NC(V) qualification, you are able to work in your field as a qualified professional, or study further towards a higher certificate, national diploma or bachelor of technology degree.

The following NC(V) qualifications are offered by TVET colleges:

  • Civil Engineering and Building Construction
  • Drawing Office Practice
  • Education and Development
  • Electrical Infrastructure Construction
  • Engineering and Related Design
  • Finance, Economics and Accounting
  • Hospitality
  • Information Technology and Computer Science
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Mechatronics
  • Office Administration
  • Primary Agriculture
  • Primary Health
  • Process Instrumentation
  • Process Plant Operations
  • Safety in Society
  • Tourism

Take a look at this table of what subjects you will be expected to take in order to complete each of these qualifications.  

Report 191 Programmes

These programmes are specifically engineering-orientated and allow you to work in a range of careers in the engineering profession or to pursue a national diploma in engineering studies. These courses are not the same as degrees offered by the universities in South Africa, however, you do qualify to pursue a national diploma in engineering and after that you can study towards a BTech degree in engineering. Here is an article highlighting the differences between degrees and diplomas in engineering.  

The Report 191 programmes available to study are:

National Certificates:

  • N1: Engineering Studies
  • N2: Engineering Studies
  • N3: Engineering Studies
  • Multi-Disciplinary Drawing Office Practice

Non-national Certificates:

  • Engineering Certificate of Competency
  • Installation Rules
  • Specialised Electrical Installation Codes

National Introductory Certificates and National Certificates

National Introductory Certificates and National Certificates are qualifications that you pursue after completing either an NC(V) or Report 191 qualification. National Introductory Certificates are often used in order to qualify you to apply to pursue a National Certificate without having to redo some of your post-school education.

Courses Offered:

The following National Introductory Certificates are offered by TVET colleges in South Africa: 

  • N4: Art and Design
  • N4: Business Studies
  • N4: Clothing Production
  • N4: Educare
  • N4: Food Services

The following National Certificates are offered by TVET colleges in South Africa:

  • N4: Art and Design
  • N4: Business Management
  • N4: Clothing Production
  • N4: Educare
  • N4: Engineering Studies
  • N4: Farming Management
  • N4: Fertilizer Manufacturing
  • N4: Financial Management
  • N4: Hair Care
  • N4: Hospitality and Catering Services
  • N4: Human Resource Management
  • N4: Interior Decorating
  • N4: Legal Secretary
  • N4: Management Assistant
  • N4: Marketing Management
  • N4: Medical Secretary
  • N4: Popular Music: Composition
  • N4: Popular Music: Performance
  • N4: Popular Music: Studio Work
  • N4: Public Management
  • N4: Public Relations
  • N4: Textiles
  • N4: Tourism

TVET colleges offer an enormous range of qualifications. This means that you are able to study towards a career path that suits you and your lifestyle. 80% of the tuition fees for all programmes at public TVET colleges are subsidised by the government. This means that studying at a TVET college is extremely affordable compared to other forms of tertiary and post-school education. TVET colleges are a great option for someone who is unsure that tertiary education is for them and would rather become qualified in a specific field to do a specific job. To find out more about specific TVET colleges and to apply to them, go here.

EduConnect 2Cents

Be sure to check the accreditation of any TVET college that you apply to — especially the private ones. Fraudulent TVET colleges have been popping up all over South Africa and they are happily taking students tuition money and helping them study towards a qualification that is ultimately worthless. All TVET colleges should be accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training and the certificates should be accredited by Umalusi. Visit this page for the list of accredited public TVET colleges in South Africa, and this page for the list of accredited private TVET colleges in South Africa.

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