TVET engineering students’ perceptions of the value of their qualification and the prospects of employment
The study described in this article explored the ways in which selected technical and vocational education and training (TVET) engineering students perceived their qualifications and employment prospects, given the youth unemployment rate in general and, in particular, that among TVET graduates. While the unemployment rate among South Africans with a tertiary qualification stood at 7%, it appeared to be a staggering 33% among TVET graduates in 2017. In order to gather data from a sample of TVET engineering students, a self-administered qualitative questionnaire was used to collect data from two colleges. A total of 113 TVET engineering students at the two colleges completed the questionnaire. The gender profile of the participants was 64 females and 49 males, who were all between the ages of 18 and 29 years. The findings showed that the TVET engineering qualification does not guarantee employment because of the lack of jobs in the South African economy. Moreover, the participants perceived unemployment as a function of job scarcity rather than of a lack of skills. However, some participants perceived a TVET engineering qualification to be in demand, and this demand is attributed to the electricity crisis/load-shedding in South Africa. The majority of the 79 participants, who perceived unemployment to be an economic crisis, recommended that a solution to unemployment should be to make voluntary service compulsory in both the public and the private sector. To this end, the government should make available funding for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and also encourage and fund students to study beyond their undergraduate qualification. As an entry-level requirement for employment, experience is seen as an unfair practice and a barrier to entry for graduates.