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TVET stands for Technical and Vocational Education and Training

TVET colleges provide education and training from Grade 10 to Grade 12 where the student receives education and training with a view towards a specific range of jobs, employment or entrepreneurial possibilities.  They’re not only for people who haven’t completed Grade 12 – many matriculants enrol at a TVET college to follow a trade or complete one of the many other tertiary programmes on offer.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training courses are vocational or occupational by nature meaning that under certain conditions, some students may qualify for admission to a University of Technology to continue their studies at a higher level in the same field of study as they were studying at the TVET College.

TVET colleges provide theoretical and practical training in engineering, including electrical engineering, motor mechanics, industrial and mechanical engineering. TVET also focuses on scarce skills development. These scarce skills are usually found in the trades, agriculture, business, commerce and management, education, training and development, engineering, manufacturing and technology, services, building construction and security.

Public colleges, such as False Bay College and College of Cape Town, fall under the auspices of the department of higher education and training (DHET). The government has thrown its weight behind these institutions because the country needs more mid-level technical skilled people such as artisans, motor mechanics, engineers, electricians, mining specialists and handymen. There are also private colleges, such as Damelin, which are required to be registered as an institution of higher education with the DHET and offer accredited courses (see below)

How they work

There are two main streams for Grade 9 school-leavers:

  1. NC(V): National Certificate (Vocational) NQF 2-4
  2. Nated (Engineering) N1-N6

The NC(V) is a three-year programme that takes you from level 2 to level 4. You get a certificate upon completing each level and receive your NC(V) after completing level 4 (this is the equivalent of a matric certificate).

The NC(V), which can be used to apply to a university if you meet the admission requirements, combines theory and practice and is made up of seven subjects – three foundation subjects (maths literacy, a language and life orientation), and four vocational subjects that are determined by your field of study.

Engineering studies is open to Grade 9 school-leavers who’ve passed maths and science. It’s a one-year programme that takes you from N1 to N3 and offers subjects such as mathematics, engineering science and engineering drawing as well as a trade-related subject.

Matriculants who apply to do engineering studies at a TVET college start at N4 (and go up to N6) while learners who have Grade 9 start at N1. If you’re interested in becoming an electrician, for example, and you complete N2, pass your practical trade test and work 18 months in the field, you’ll be a qualified electrician. But you can also choose to continue with your studies by getting your N3 and N4. To  obtain a diploma in engineering studies you need 24 months of experience at a company or organisation. You are then  an electrical technician, which offers better career prospects. But although Grade 9 can get you into N1, some companies prefer to take on only apprentices who have matric.

How to apply

Procedures differ from college to college but usually, you need to complete an application, submit it with your ID, proof of residence and a copy of your Grade 9 results.
Learners must be 16 years or older. Most colleges require you to write an entrance exam consisting of an interest test, as well as numeracy and literacy assessments and have an individual interview.

The tests are done to establish students’ numeracy and literacy levels as well as their career interests. The results of the tests are used to place students in appropriate programmes and provide them with on-course support if there are gaps in numeracy and literacy.

If you don’t score well in literacy and numeracy it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be accepted. You can get academic support to improve your maths or literacy while continuing your studies. But if the knowledge gap is too great – for instance, if you want to do engineering studies but your grasp of maths is too poor – you’ll have to choose a new field of study.

Bursaries for vocational training

The DHET has allocated R2,2 billion to the TVET college bursaries scheme to assist financially disadvantaged students. You can find out from colleges if they offer bursaries and how to apply – all have their own requirements. The bursary scheme is administered by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), but you need to apply through your college. Some colleges also offer smaller bursaries for specific courses.

Beware of bogus colleges!

  • All public TVET colleges are registered with the Department of Higher Education & Training.
  • All private TVET colleges are not! Be careful, some colleges are scams. Make sure the one you’re thinking of attending is accredited.

There are many excellent private colleges with accredited programmes – but there also are bogus colleges that have robbed students of thousands of rands for qualifications that are worthless. All private TVET colleges and higher education institutions must be registered with the department of higher education and training (DHET) and the programmes they offer must be accredited.

The government has taken steps against these fake institutions, DHET spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana says. “They’re mushrooming everywhere as a way of making money out of the poor. We have shut down some of them and opened criminal cases against more than 39,” he adds. “We’ve just secured a conviction in one case. They’re a big problem and a significant contributor to the increase of fake qualifications in South Africa.”

You can check if an institution is registered by looking for its name on the DHET’s register of private colleges on its website ( Alternatively, call the toll-free number 0800-87-22-22.

“We encourage people to ask whether the college they want to enroll in is registered or not. Secondly, they should ask whether the course they intend to enrol for is accredited or not.” – Khaye Nkwanyana

Sources: News24,,,,,,




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