Motor mechanic students learning on the job. File Picture: ANA Archives
After many years of calling on private employers to extend employment opportunities to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) college graduates, the Higher Education Department has led by example.

Its Graduate Internship Programme has invited TVET graduates to apply for nearly 300 internship posts.

Paying just over R6000 monthly, the interns will be placed in the department and across its entities including the TVET colleges, National Skills Fund and community colleges.

The programme also has hundreds of internships for university graduates.

The invitation to TVET graduates holding the N6 certificate was groundbreaking as they were rarely provided the internship opportunities in both the public and private sectors.

According to data from Statistics SA, the unemployment rate among TVET graduates was 33%, while it stood at 7% among university graduates.

A 2017 study called for concerted intervention to reduce the shockingly high TVET college graduates.

In its study, Jet Education Services, an independent NPO, decried the dearth of job opportunities for graduates from the 50 colleges “predominantly attended by marginalised black African youth”.

“South Africa’s labour market is hostile to young school and college graduates, partially because of a scarcity of work opportunities,” said the report.

“University graduates have substantially better opportunities to find jobs relative to their brothers and sisters emerging from the TVET colleges. Competition for jobs is intense (among the TVET graduates).”

Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, previously complained that TVET graduates “do not get the kind of workplace exposure they desperately need” and said “this has to be corrected’’.

But the government itself was barely inviting the college graduates to apply for their yearly internships.

Departments and state-owned entities (SOEs) exclusively invited university graduates.

Nzimande now hoped departments and SOEs would consider TVET graduates, said spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi.

“We’re taking the lead and hope that other departments will follow suit and increase intake of TVET students in learnerships and internships in their SOEs,” said Mnisi.

“A significant number of government departments do have internships. We can only do more to absorb TVET graduates.”

Mnisi said the department still urged the private sector to extend opportunities to college graduates.

“This internship programme is part of a broader response by the department and government to ensure opportunities to the graduates.

“However, we still make a call on the private sector to seek partnerships with us for the sake of the graduates,” he said.

Graduates have until February 7 to apply for the Higher Education Department internships.

@BonganiNkosi87