Students having a discussion

The British Council has supported the development of South Africa's Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) strategy, resulting in curriculum developments, improved employer links and a higher profile for the skills sector.

Our objective

A recent report from the World Economic Forum suggested that South Africa has the third highest unemployment rate in the world among young people aged 15-24. Youth employability and job creation are therefore high on the agenda for the South African government.  British Council supports their national vision for a skilled workforce through the Skills for Employability programme which addresses issues impacting youth unemployment in the country. It draws on international best practice and is aligned to existing policies, strategies and initiatives led by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training

Our strategy

The South African Minister for Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, made a conscious effort to develop a TVET strategy that draws on international good practice and leverages international cooperation.  Policy level engagement, continuous professional development of college senior managers and International Skills Partnerships were key to achieving this, with college partnerships, in particular, at the heart of the programme. 

Our impact

New curricula in the renewable energy sector

A partnership between Coleg Gwent (Wales) and Northlink College (SA) focused on developing curricula in the renewable energy sector.  This created a new curriculum area for learners at Northlink College and also within South Africa, in an emerging area of investment for the region.  The Renewable Technology Awareness programme that was developed has already reached 400 learners. Meanwhile the Solar Water Geyser Installation course has been accredited by the Construction Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA).  

Northlink was able to showcase its work in renewables at the Johannesburg Policy Dialogue conference in Johannesburg in 2014 and received considerable interest from other South African colleges.

Informal curriculum for mechanics 

Partnerships between Harrow College (England) and Orbit and Sedibeng Colleges (SA) have led to the development of a course to serve the large ‘backyard’ mechanics sector in South Africa. Orbit College was able to secure support from the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services SETA (MerSETA) to develop an informal curriculum for the course. To date twenty mechanics have been trained.

School-to-college bridging programme

Walsall College (England) and East Cape Midlands College (SA) developed a short bridging programme, 'Advance and Accelerate'. Designed to give students transitioning from school to college, and others requiring remedial assistance, a better grounding in basic subjects – including maths, English and IT skills - the ultimate aim is to increase pass rates at National Certificate Level 3.

Raised profile

Support for the foundation of South Africa World Skills, and Enterprise Challenges run as part of the programme, have helped raise the profile of the skills sector nationally. Two partnership colleges – Orbit and Sedibeng – have had students participate in South Africa World Skills which has increased their profile and institutional self-esteem.

Stronger employer links

The international partnership work has cemented an existing relationship between Ford Motor Company and Orbit College. Ford is now pro-actively helping with lecturer training and is even recruiting several students. Likewise, the relationship between Sedibeng and Imperial Motors has been strengthened with an exchange of students between Sedibeng and the Imperial Training College. 

The development of a new curriculum for renewable technologies has helped Northlink College strengthen relations with solar technology company NuSolar, as well as with the Solar Heating Ombudsman for South Africa.


South African partners report that the greatest impact has been in the form of a change in organisational mindset. Increased confidence and exposure to new ways of doing things, coupled with enhanced credibility in the eyes of local government, educational and industrial partners as a result of engaging with the British Council and UK partners, has been central to the change.