The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is spending almost R50 million for the current financial year on a programme it hopes will not only throw a lifeline to struggling high school pupils but also turn out more artisans in a country critically short of them.
The WCED launched the Youth Focus Programme as a pilot project in 2013 to beef up support for Grade 9 pupils. The project is aimed at pupils who have failed the grade repeatedly. It gives them access to a year-long bridging programme, at the end of which they get an occupation-orientated qualification.
The programme is run with the aid of the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and Adult Education and Training (AET) centres.
To date, the WCED has matched 2000 Grade 9 pupils to TVET colleges across the province.
Last week, Wednesday August 24, Education MEC Debbie Schafer visited the Youth Focus Project at Northlink College, in Parow. She toured the skills academy and shopped at a simulated store, which is equipped with stock, a cash register, computers and scanners.
Ms Schafer said the high drop-out rate at schools was one of the biggest challenges facing education in the country.
The WCED partnered with the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority (W&RSETA) to form the Youth Focus Project. In 2015 and 2016, W&RSETA contributed R22 million towards the project that aims to assist 480 youth to achieve a national certificate in wholesale and retail operations.
“The focus is on critical skills needed for the growth of our economy – but we cannot do this alone,” said Ms Schafer.
On the day, 19 students received certificates for completing the level 2 qualification in retail operations last year.
Ms Schafer said the project would lead to an alternative education programme for over-age school pupils.
“This project is aimed at turning a problem into an opportunity for youth to receive training in priority and scarce artisan skills,” she said.