Experiences of women students in Engineering studies at a TVET college in South Africa
This article explores the experiences of women students in an Engineering programme at a South African technical and vocational education and training (TVET) college. Drawing on the capabilities approach as the study’s theoretical framework, the author interprets what women go through as they navigate college and transition into the labour market. While there is a growing literature on post-school education, particularly on TVET, few studies focus on the experiences of women students in traditionally male-dominated programmes such as Engineering. Furthermore, South African education and training policies since 1994 make reference to a commitment to resolving the inequalities under the previous apartheid government, specifically with regard to gender inequality. Through a case study approach, the research reported on in this article sought to understand how the democratic government’s commitment to social justice was being implemented and experienced on the ground, and, more particularly, whether it is improving the position of women students. Qualitative data obtained through in-depth interviews were collected in two phases from 14 women in their final trimester of the National Accredited Technical Education Diploma (NATED) programme and about six months after that. The findings show that the students face various challenges while they persist with their education, and also in obtaining either internships or employment. By highlighting the experiences of women in TVET, it is hoped that
this understanding will help to persuade the government to embrace social justice in the postschool sector so as to enhance the study and employment opportunities of women who enrol in Engineering.