Many opportunities for school leavers
Approximately one million young people left school at the end of 2012. They include those who passed matric, those who wrote but didn’t pass, and those who left school without writing matric.
What are their options? First of all, there is the issue of choosing what to do.
Good starting points for career information are the career advice helpline (0860 111 673 or SMS 0722 045 056) or go online to www.careerhelp.org.za.
What students can study, though, is determined to some extent by their matric results. For those who qualify, South Africa offers 21 universities, including some of the best on the continent and indeed, in the world.
Aside from these top academic institutions, we also have very good universities of technology (formerly technikons) and comprehensive universities that offer academically oriented degree programmes and career-oriented diploma programmes.
Great efforts are being made to improve the quality of the weaker universities, many of which started as institutions for the formerly disadvantaged.
University students from poor families can apply for loans from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Not all students can go to university – and nor should they. The economy needs a wide variety of skills, many of which cannot be gained at a university.
The government’s priority in the post-school system is to expand the size and quality of the Further Education and Training (FET) college system.
These colleges focus on more practical, career-oriented programmes and offer programmes to those with Grade 9 as well as to those with a matric.
The FET colleges provide an education in skills that are in high demand, including qualifications for the building and engineering trades, the manufacturing and hospitality industries, business studies and early childhood teaching.
Poor students at FET colleges do not need to pay fees and may get assistance with transport or accommodation costs.
Other public institutions, like nursing or agricultural colleges, provide specialised training.
In addition to public institutions, there are a number of private colleges and higher education institutions too.
Some of these are excellent and play an important role in providing educational opportunities. However, students should be careful to check that an institution is legitimate and registered with the department of higher education and training.
State-owned enterprises (such as Eskom or Transnet) and many of the larger private companies also have their own in-house academies or colleges.
The same goes for some government agencies such as the police and the defence force. All these offer good training opportunities and should be approached directly.
Some young people may feel the need to work before studying further. Work can also be combined with part-time study, either through distance or face-to-face modes.
If possible, those who choose to go straight into work should try to combine it with study through, for example, pursuing an apprenticeship or learnership.
More information about these opportunities can be obtained through the Sector Education and Training Authorities.
For those who still want to get their matric – or study for a General Education and Training Certificate – there are more than 3 000 public adult learning centres across the country, as well as several private ones.
A closing word of advice to school-leavers: find out as much as you can about what is available and apply for more than one programme.
If you don’t get what you want, try something else. Don’t give up. South Africa is designing a system in which there are no dead ends.
Whatever you study, there will always be a way to go on to higher studies.
And remember, whatever path you choose will require dedication and hard work. That, above all, is the way to success.
» Pampallis is special adviser to the minister of higher education and training