Chapter 3. What should be the role of Community Education and Training?

This chapter zooms in on the role that community education and training could play in the South African post-school education system. The current adult education system only provides for adult basic education, as enshrined in the South African constitution. This chapter explores what other types of training could be provided by the community education and training system, and who should be the main target audience. The chapter provides good practice example from other countries and concrete actions that can be taken to advance and position the community education and training system in South Africa.


3.1. Background

Lifelong learning activities for adults generally take three forms: formal, non-formal and informal learning (Desjardins, 2017[1]). Formal adult education and training usually leads to an official qualification, and can be general in nature (e.g. adults in higher education or adults in second chance secondary education), but also vocationally oriented. These types of programmes are generally provided by formal education and training institutions (e.g. TVET colleges, universities). Non-formal training does not necessarily lead to widely recognised qualifications, but still constitutes structured and organised learning opportunities. This can include seminars, workshops or on-the-job training activities. Non-formal training is often provided by employers, but also by public and private education and training institutions, non-profit organisations and trade unions. Informal learning, on the other hand, is generally less deliberate and unstructured, and includes learning by doing and learning from others. Because of its unstructured nature, informal learning is not delivered by a specific provider. Across OECD countries, adults participate much more in non-formal and informal learning activities than in formal education and training (Fialho, Quintini and Vandeweyer, 2019[2])

Adults face multiple barriers when it comes to participation in lifelong learning activities. In OECD countries, the main reason for adults not to participate or participate more in training is because they are too busy at work, followed by childcare and family responsibility and training being too expensive (OECD, 2017[3]). Interestingly, among individuals who do not participate in training, the large majority also has no interest in participating. The lack of interest and other barriers to participation are generally bigger for low-skilled adults (OECD, 2019[4]). Evidence shows that it is hard for adults to improve their skills mid-life. Often those concerned will have done badly at school, and have a very negative perception of education and learning; they may lack awareness of their deficiencies, and even if aware, be embarrassed to admit it (in respect of reading difficulties for example). Initial motivation is therefore a serious obstacle (Musset, 2015[5]; Windisch, 2015[6]). Engaging adults, especially low skilled ones, requires sensitivity to the different ways in which they might be motivated and how they might want to learn. Some adult learners are highly dependent on teachers for structure and guidance, while others prefer to manage their own learning. Some may be motivated to learn because of some specific objective, like getting a new job or helping their children with homework, others may want to learn out of curiosity. Adults typically prefer to learn what is meaningful to them (see Windisch (2015[6]) for a review of the literature).

In light of the difficulties to engage adults to participate in lifelong learning, it is of crucial importance that the training opportunities available for adults are useful and targeted to their needs and circumstances. In OECD countries, the large majority of adults participating in adult learning opportunities do so for job-related reasons, such as to do their job better or improve their career prospects (OECD, 2019[4]). Many types of training programmes can be job-related, including vocational programmes, but also basic skills programmes. Importantly, adults who want to improve their skills to have better labour market outcomes must clearly understand the benefits of different types of programmes. To improve access to lifelong learning opportunities, adults need to understand the different types of education and training institutions that exist and the programmes they offer. This is typically the task of career guidance and counselling, which generally requires the following competences (Musset and Mytna Kurekova, 2018[7]):

  • Good knowledge of education systems, labour markets, careers and learning opportunities, and the capacity to identify and use further relevant sources of information to provide more specific career advice to individuals.

  • The capacity to identify the interests, aptitudes and objectives of potential learners and together develop education and career choice solutions which are both realistic and meet their needs in the context of changing labour markets.

  • Readiness to continuously analyse changes in the labour market and importantly adjust professional counselling (OECD, 2010[8]).

Community Education and Training is one type of institutional setup that can deliver lifelong learning opportunities to adults. According to Unesco (2012[9]), the role of community learning centres is to provide opportunities for lifelong learning to all people in the local community. The main functions of these centres are to provide i) education and training, ii) community information and resource services, iii) community development activities, and iv) coordination and networking. The next sections of this chapter discuss the different programmes and services that can be offered in CET institutions in South Africa, with a focus on education and training (second chance, vocational and non-formal) and information and guidance. The services provided can go beyond the areas discussed in this section, and the offer should respond to the needs and preferences of the community (see Chapter 5 for details on how to ensure alignment with community needs). As pointed out by Lolwana, Rabe and Morakane (2018[10]), students in CET need a lot more support in order to succeed than the traditional post-school student, including financial support, childcare and health care, retention plans and extracurricular activities. Substantial additional capacity will be needed for the CET system to be able to provide all these different programmes and services. In light of the current and foreseen capacity constraints, the expansion of the CET role can only be done gradually, taking into account capacities and needs of the different CET institutions and the target audience they serve.

3.2. Second chance programmes

Basic skills programmes & primary and lower secondary education for adults with low foundational skills

The key function of the current CET system, as inherited from the AET system, is to deliver adult basic education (i.e. AET level 1-4, with completion equivalent to NQF 1 or Grade 9). Primary and lower secondary education and basic skills programmes should continue to be an essential component of CET in South Africa, especially given that 7.5 million adults in South Africa did not finish Grade 9. These types of programmes help individuals gain access to further education and training opportunities. In some countries, the provision of literacy and basic skill programmes was the starting point for the development of a diversified community education and training system (see Box 3.1).

The right to basic education is part of South Africa’s constitution (section 29(1)): “Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education”. Grade 9 (or NQF 1) is the minimum requirement for programmes in TVET colleges and for occupational qualifications. Giving adults the opportunity to participate in adult basic education does therefore not only equip them with the basic skills that are essential for everyday life, it also provides them with the opportunity to advance in further education and training.

Box 3.1. Community Learning Centres in Morocco:From literacy training for women to a diversified offer of learning opportunities

Acknowledging that low literacy rates hamper socio-economic development, the Moroccan government has made the fight against illiteracy one of its top priorities in the last two decades. A national survey showed that in 2006, 38.5% of adults in Morocco were illiterate, and that the problem was particularly pressing for women (46.8%) and in rural areas (54.4%). Following the government’s commitment to reduce illiteracy, including the adoption of a National Literacy Strategy in 2004, the number of beneficiaries of literacy programmes increased substantially (from 286 000 in 2002 to 730 000 in 2012).

As part of the literacy strategy, a pilot programme was set up in two provinces with the aim to forge a link between literacy and the socio-economic integration of women who have recently acquired basic literacy skills. The programme involved the creation of four community education centres, run by the communities themselves. These centres were provided with equipment and managers were selected and trained. The centres are accommodated by associations or networks of associations, and have their own activity programmes based on community needs. The participants receive training to refresh and reinforce their literacy and numeracy skills, but also pre-vocational training (based on the interests of the participants and the economic opportunities available in the local area). After the pre-vocational training, participants have the option to pursue in-depth technical training to foster income-generating activities.

By 2017, the number of community education centres increased to around 200, spread across different provinces. An evaluation of the centres showed that they offer a wide variety of training opportunities, including literacy and post-literacy training, professional training (e.g. sewing, hairdressing) and workshops and meetings on awareness-raising topics. Additionally, many centres provide support for small economic projects and the establishment of cooperatives, but also early childhood care facilities to facilitate participation of mothers with young children.

Source: Direction de la Lutte Contre l'Analphabétisme (2012[11]), UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (2013[12]), Avramovska, Hirsch and Schmidt-Behlau (2017[13]).

Among the group of adults without lower secondary education, some did not participate at all in education or participated only for a very brief time. These individuals might lack the very basic skills that are needed to participate in second chance primary and lower secondary education. For these adults, basic skill training would be required, as provided by the Kha Ri Gude campaign (which is currently managed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE)). The campaign reached its objective of reducing by half the number of illiterate adults in South Africa and is being phased out. However, this means that there is still a large group of illiterate individuals in need of this type of training. Providing adults with the opportunity to develop basic literacy and numeracy skills would give them the chance to advance into second chance primary and lower secondary education and improve their education and career pathways. The CET system should acquire the Kha Ri Gude materials for literacy training of CET students, and develop similar adapted and integrated learning materials for AET Levels 1 to 4.

Approaches that gives interesting results for adults are ‘contextualised’, which means that they identify and address weaknesses in basic skills in a wider context – such as the search for a job or an adult vocational programme. Basic skills acquisition is often embedded in occupational skill programmes, but also programmes such as family literacy (see Windisch (2015[6]) for a review of the evidence). It has been argued that this approach has many advantages. First, it is easier to engage and retain low-skilled adult learners who have negative feelings about ‘traditional classroom’ numeracy and literacy programmes. Second, it can help retain adult learners, positively change their attitudes towards further education and training, improve their self-confidence and parenting and employability skills, and achieve literacy and numeracy and/or vocational qualifications. Third, basic skills linked to an occupational skill are more likely to be sustained through use in the occupation. The same is true of basic skills linked to practical non-work requirements of everyday life, such as financial literacy. Many countries have therefore championed the approach. But for all its merits, it is hard to deliver effective contextual learning, especially because of the organisational challenges in having literacy and numeracy teachers work together with vocational teachers in a coordinated way (Kuczera, Field and Windisch, 2015[14]).

Recommended action steps

Table 3.1 provides some possible action steps that could be taken to implement and improve basic skills programmes and second chance primary and lower secondary education in CET. For each action, the most relevant stakeholders concerned are listed. The list of stakeholders is not exhaustive, and cooperation between different stakeholders is encouraged. The actions focus on the short- and medium-term, and a more ambitious action plan could be developed for the longer term in line with the vision for CET from the DHET’s strategic documents.

Table 3.1. Actions steps for basic skills programmes and second chance primary and lower secondary education
Steps and relevant stakeholders

Action steps

Main stakeholders

Set-up a joint DBE and DHET basic skills task team to discuss the key lessons from the Kha Ri Gude campaign.


Take over the Kha Ri Gude learning materials from the DBE to provide basic skills training in CET institutions


Design a basic skills programme to be delivered in CET institutions, building on the Kha Ri Gude campaign and insights from the basic skills task team, and optimally using the Kha Ri Gude materials

DHET, DBE, NGOs, Quality Councils

Communicate widely about the continuation of Kha Ri Gude (albeit potentially under a new name and form) in CET institutions

DHET, DBE, CLCs, CET Colleges,

Better encourage and support students completing basic skills programmes to progress into second chance primary and lower secondary education


Develop learning materials for second chance primary and lower secondary education that provide an integrated approach to basic adult education, incorporating life skills. Use the basic skills task team to learn from the experiences of Kha Ri Gude


Implement the GETCA as soon as possible, and make sure it truly reflects the needs of adult learners in terms of curriculum content and flexibility

DHET, Umalusi

Note: DHET: Department for Higher Education and Training; DBE: Department of Basic Education; CLC: Community Learning Centre.

Upper secondary education for adults wanting to obtain the Senior Certificate

High dropout rates after Grade 9 and a significant number of people who do not pass the National Senior Certificate exam, mean that many students leave initial education without an upper secondary degree (i.e. Matric) (see Chapter 1). Nonetheless, an upper secondary degree is very valuable in the South African labour market: given the large pool of available (unemployed) labour, employers are increasingly requiring an upper secondary degree when looking for candidates (even for jobs for which an upper secondary degree is not necessarily required). In addition, a Matric degree gives access to further education opportunities. Even for TVET programmes at lower NQF-levels (i.e. 2 to 4), opportunities are more limited for individuals without a Matric, as colleges prefer to grant the available spaces to individuals with higher levels of educational attainment.

Many Community Learning Centres are currently providing Grade 12 training courses, and a large (and growing) share of students in the CET system are enrolled in these Grade 12 programmes. At the same time, the Department for Basic Education has just started its new Second Chance Matric programme that provides learning materials and face-to-face classes for people taking another chance at the National Senior Certificate (or at the Senior Certificate (Amended)) (see Chapter 2). It should be guaranteed that people who obtain the Senior Certificate (Amended) or its successor, the NASCA certificate (see Chapter 2), have easy access to further education opportunities.

Second chance upper secondary education should remain at the heart of CET, as it gives individuals the opportunity to obtain the valuable Matric certificate that increases their career opportunities, and opens up a range of different pathways into further education and training. Evidence from a sample of Community Learning Centres shows that the main aspiration of CET students is further education (Lolwana, Rabe and Morakane, 2018[10]). As for basic skills and lower-secondary programmes, upper-secondary CET provision should ideally incorporate life skills into the teaching materials, in an effort to provide integrated learning but also to be closer to the adults’ daily realities. Overlap between CET and the DBE’s Second Chance Matric programme should be avoided as much as possible, and ideally the face-to-face classes from the Second Chance Matric programme would also be delivered in CET institutions.

Individuals taking part in second chance education with the goal to advance into TVET colleges could benefit from additional support to prepare them for vocational education. Information about different vocational careers could help them make informed education choices, and employability training and information on how to look for workplace-based learning opportunities could benefit the successful completion of their TVET training. In Germany, a pre-apprenticeship programme is available for students with low educational attainment wanting to enter the dual vocational system (see Box 3.2).

Recommended action steps

Table 3.2 provides some possible action steps that could be taken to implement and improve second chance upper secondary education in CET. For each action step, the most relevant stakeholders concerned are listed. The list of stakeholders is not exhaustive, and cooperation between different stakeholders is encouraged. The actions steps focus on the short- and medium-term, and a more ambitious action plan could be developed for the longer term in line with the vision for CET from the DHET’s strategic documents.

Table 3.2. Actions steps for second chance upper secondary education
Action steps and relevant stakeholders

Action steps

Main stakeholders

Introduce the NASCA certificate as soon as possible, ensuring it is flexible and has the same value as the National Senior Certificate (NSC). Clarify the rules around who can (re-)take the NSC exam and who can take the NASCA exam.

DHET, DBE, Umalusi

Engage closely with the DBE on their Second Chance Matric programme. Make sure that potential students understand the difference between Grade 12 in CET and the DBE’s Second Chance Matric programme. Make the DBE’s Second Chance Matric learning materials and face-to-face classes available in CET institutions.


Develop teaching and learning materials adapted to adults (as for second chance primary and lower secondary education) and ensure sufficient flexibility. Make sure a career guidance component is included in the curriculum.


Reduce dropouts in upper secondary education by fully developing TVET NQF 2-4 as an alternative pathway to the academic route (Grade 10-12). This will lower the need for second chance education. Investment in TVET should be done to ensure sufficient places for non-Matric holders.


Note: DHET: Department for Higher Education and Training; DBE: Department of Basic Education.

Short remedial courses can help adults close basic skills gaps

As CET will expand to also offer vocational skills programmes (see below), it will become important to ensure that participants in these programmes also have access to remedial or bridging courses to freshen up or improve some essential literacy and numeracy skills. The skills of these participants might not be up to standard with workplace and further education requirements. At the same time, these adults are potentially not interested in participating in full academic second chance programmes (at the lower- or upper-secondary level) and they might already possess the very basic literacy skills targeted in literacy programmes. For these adults, short remedial courses can be useful to ensure that they have the foundational skills needed to participate in vocational programmes, but also to facilitate their progression into the labour market or further education. The need for this type of remedial courses was confirmed by a number of CET students, who pointed out that gaps in general and foundational education make it difficult for learners to access skills quickly and effectively (Lolwana, Rabe and Morakane, 2018[10]).

Research shows that many people cannot adequately assess their own literacy and numeracy weaknesses. Data from various cohort studies in the United Kingdom show that many people with weak basic skills do not recognise their own difficulties, particularly in numeracy. Once people are aware of weaknesses in their basic skills, they tend to want to improving them (Bynner and Parsons, 2006[15]). Given all the difficulties of persuading adults who may need help with numeracy and literacy to come forward, an effective approach could be to screen for foundation skills in the context of vocational programmes offered in CET institutions. The materials and expertise developed within the context of the Kha Ri Gude campaign could be helpful for designing these foundational skills screening tools. Screening for basic skills gaps needs to be handled sensitively, so that it is not seen as a barrier to entry and does not demoralise potential learners. A similar approach is taken in community colleges in the United States, which offer developmental (or remedial) education following a basic skills entry test (Kuczera and Field, 2013[16]).

Box 3.2. Pre-vocational training in Germany

In Germany, the dual vocational system is an important component of vocational education and training. In the dual system, students combine school-based vocational learning with company-based learning (apprenticeships). Dual vocational learning at the secondary education level does not require any qualifications, but companies often require at least lower secondary education from their apprentices. To help students without lower secondary education qualifications access apprenticeship opportunities, a pre-vocational training year (Berufsvorbereitungsjahr) is made available.

The one-year program at a full-time vocational school offers general education as well as basic occupational training. Additionally, there is guidance helping the students make future career choices. Successful graduates of the pre-vocational training year are awarded a lower secondary school leaving certificate (at the Hauptschule level). After completion of the pre-vocational training year, students can search for apprenticeships, or they can continue with a basic vocational training year (Berufsgrundbildungsjahr). This programme is open to everyone with a lower secondary degree, and offers general education and practical basic job-specific training, at a higher level than the pre-vocational programme. Students can choose between several occupational fields. Completion of the programme can reduce the duration of a subsequent apprenticeship.

In 2016/17, around 121 000 students started the pre-vocational training year and an additional 6 800 started the basic vocational training year (full-time). The number of students in the pre-vocational training year has been on the rise, with the number of students increasing by 129% since 2014/15. This recent strong growth in overall participation can be entirely attributed to non-German students, who represented two thirds of total participants in 2016/17. Evidence suggests that the pre-vocational training programmes serve as a stepping-stone to enter vocational education mainly for individuals with the lowest qualification levels, but also that additional support is needed for disadvantaged students. Recent data show that around 60% of participants in transition measures (including the pre-vocational training year and the basic vocational training year, but also other transition options) continue into vocational education.

Source: Autorengruppe Bildungsberichterstattung (2018[17]); Beicht (2009[18]); Eichhorst, Wozny and Cox (2015[19]); Erban (2010[20]); Statistisches Bundesamt (2018[21])

Recommended action steps

Table 3.3 provides some possible action steps that could be taken to implement and improve remedial course in CET. For each action step, the most relevant stakeholders concerned are listed. The list of stakeholders is not exhaustive, and cooperation between different stakeholders is encouraged. The actions steps focus on the short- and medium-term, and a more ambitious action plan could be developed for the longer term in line with the vision for CET from the DHET’s strategic documents.

Table 3.3. Actions steps for short remedial
Action steps and relevant stakeholders

Action steps

Main stakeholders

Develop tools, using the expertise of the Kha Ri Gude campaign, to screen for weaknesses in basic skills upon entry in certain CET programmes, and offer targeted help for those who need it.


Develop modules of basic skills training at different levels that can be combined flexibly.

DHET, DBE, Quality councils

Promote these short remedial courses among participants in vocational skills programmes.


Note: DHET: Department of Higher Education and Training; DBE: Department of Basic Education; CLC: Community Learning Centre.

3.3. Vocational skills programmes

Adults without upper secondary education do not necessarily want to participate in purely academic training programmes to obtain a lower or upper secondary qualification. For many adults the reason for participating in training activities is to improve their labour market outcomes, and improved literacy and numeracy skills may on their own not provide sufficient impetus to change or improve careers. Exploratory research on a sample of CET students shows that the desire to get a (better) job is the second most important reason for participating in CET (after wanting to study further). For this reason, adults should have easy access to vocational training opportunities. Currently, TVET colleges are mainly providing long-term programmes (Nated and NCV) that are not targeted to adult learners. Occupational programmes only represent a very small part in the overall TVET offering, with only 2% of all students in TVET colleges enrolled in these programmes (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2016[22]). At the same time, as pointed out by Field, Musset and Álvarez-Galván (2014[23]), TVET programmes are rarely organised as distance education or on a part-time basis. Ensuring that adults have access to vocational training opportunities can be achieved by making programmes in TVET colleges more flexible, and by offering vocational programmes adapted to the needs of adult learners in the CET system. This would echo the approach taken in other countries.

Some Community Learning Centres are already providing vocational skills programmes, such as welding, auto-mechanics, sewing, baking and computer skills, but they remain a minority. Some of these programmes are accredited, meaning that they deliver NQF (part-) qualifications (usually at level 2 or 3). Many different types of vocational skills programmes exist in South Africa, and the difference between them is not always easy to understand. Box 3.3 provides more information about the three main types of vocational skills programmes: vocational, occupational and skills programmes.

While the provision of vocational skills programmes in CET is clearly of high value, overlaps with the programmes offered in TVET colleges within close geographical proximity should be avoided as much as possible, especially when resources are limited. Ideally, vocational skills programmes in CET are short-term, to be easily accessible to adults but also to allow sufficient flexibility to respond to community needs (see Chapter 5). Over time, some TVET programmes could be made available in the CET system, provided they are adapted to the needs of adults. Importantly, to avoid unnecessary investment in equipment and use existing knowledge and experience as much as possible, the CET system should cooperate closely with TVET colleges in their neighbourhood.

Box 3.3. Vocational, occupational and skills programmes in South Africa

Vocational qualifications

There are two types of vocational qualifications in South Africa, delivered in TVET colleges: National Certificate Vocational (NCV) and Nated:

  • The NCV programmes are available at levels 2 to 4 of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The programmes include three general and four vocational subjects. Successful students receive a certificate after levels 2 and 3, and the National Certificate (Vocational) after completing level 4. The NCV has a compulsory practical component, which can be offered in a real or simulated workplace environment.

  • Nated programmes are available from level N1 to N6, with N1 to N3 corresponding to NQF level 2-4. The N6 certificate only leads to a national N diploma at NQF level 5 upon completion of 18 months or two years of relevant work experience. The business and services programmes are only available at level N4-N6 and are open to Matric graduates. Other N4-N6 programmes are also open to N3 graduates. Individuals who want to enter the labour market after N2 or N3 need to take a trade test, for which workplace experience is a pre-requisite. The Nated programmes are purely vocationally oriented, and are generally shorter than the NCV programmes. The Nated programmes in themselves do not contain a practical component, and therefore the trade tests and national N diploma require proof of outside work experience.

When the NCV was introduced in 2007, it was meant to gradually replace the N-programmes. Today, however, the majority of TVET students are still enrolled in Nated programmes: In 2016, 177 000 students were enrolled in NCV programmes, compared to 492 000 in N-programmes.

Occupational qualifications

An Occupational Qualification is a qualification associated to a trade, occupation or profession resulting from work-based learning. Occupational qualifications make work experience an important part of learning, and they can be obtained through TVET colleges, SETA learnerships, private providers and colleges, and industry. Over 200 occupational qualifications are registered in the NQF (the occupational qualifications sub-framework). There is considerable variation in the level and length of the programmes, with programmes available on NQF levels 2 to 8 and credits ranging between 28 (forecourt attendant, NQF level 2) and 697 (millwright, NQF level 4). All programmes have a knowledge, practical skills and work experience module.

Skills programmes

The Skills Development Act describes skills programmes as unit standard-based programmes that are occupationally based and delivered by an accredited training provider, and when completed, constitute credits towards a qualification registered in terms of the NQF. A skills programme can be considered a mini-qualification in that it comprises an agreed unit standard or cluster of unit standards. The registration of skills programmes is the responsibility of the SETAs.

Source: Human Resource Development Council for South Africa (2014[24]); Department for Higher Education and Training (2016[22]).

Part-qualifications, like the skills programmes offered by SETAs, could be the best option for CET. These skills programmes are a combination of one or more unit standards and provide NQF credits (but not full NQF qualifications) (see Box 3.3). These short-term skills programmes would allow individuals to acquire relatively quickly the skills that are in demand in their local labour market, such that they can easily progress into work. For those individuals who would like to continue into further education and training, the part-qualifications give them a first basis on which they can build further.

Skills programmes already offered in Community Learning Centres have mainly been targeted at traditional trades, but this does not necessarily have to be the case. In France, subsidized training programmes are available for disadvantaged youth to develop specialised IT skills (see Box 3.4). Some NGOs, employers or training providers might already be offering skills training programmes that respond to the needs of the community. It could be an option to form partnerships with these providers and allocate subsidies for continuing or expanding their training programme if needed. This type of set-up would avoid duplication of investment and would allow making optimal use of the already available knowledge, expertise and equipment. It should be noted that setting up and managing partnerships also requires sufficient dedicated resources and capacity, as partnerships generally involve extensive administration, but also additional quality assurance and monitoring mechanisms.

Box 3.4. Equipping disadvantaged youth with specialised IT skills in France

The French Government introduced the Grande École du Numérique label in 2015, granting labels of excellence to short-term (1 to 42 months) IT training courses that respond to specific labour market needs, such as coding or web development. The needs should be identified in co-operation with regional and professional stakeholders, and training should involve soft skills that are valued by employers. Subsidies are available for training providers that get their training labelled. The Grande École du Numérique courses are subsidised (fully or partially), and open to everyone irrespective of academic background. While open to everyone, the training focusses on low-skilled youth, setting a target of 50% low-skilled NEETs among participants. Efforts are also done to attract female students (with a target of 30%) and students from disadvantaged areas. By mid-2018, 410 trainings programmes received the Grande École du Numérique label, and over 11 000 students participated. The average duration of training programmes equals around seven months.

The latest information on the participants in Grande École du Numérique programmes shows that the initiative has been able to reach its target audience: 65% of students are NEET, 55% have at most upper secondary education, 24% are women and 17% come from disadvantaged areas. The professional pathways of graduates show a relatively positive picture: 74% of graduates are employed or in further education or training.

Source: OECD (2017[25]); Grande école du numérique (2018[26]).

Students and graduates from these skills programmes would benefit from additional on-the-job learning during their studies or immediately after graduation. Internships provide a good opportunity for individuals to further develop their skills on the job, and for employers to “test out” potential new recruits. Employers can get funding for internships from SETAs through the skills development levy system. At the same time, participants in skills programmes could also be encouraged to participate in non-formal programmes to reinforce their employability skills (see Section 3.4), which could facilitate their transition into the labour market. The +Capaz programme in Chile integrates transversal skills training in vocational programmes, and provides the opportunity to participants to also take part in practical training (see Box 3.5).

Recommended action steps

Table 3.4 provides some possible action steps that could be taken to implement and improve vocational skills programmes in CET. For each action step, the most relevant stakeholders concerned are listed. The list of stakeholders is not exhaustive, and cooperation between different stakeholders is encouraged. The actions steps focus on the short- and medium-term, and a more ambitious action plan could be developed for the longer term in line with the vision for CET from the DHET’s strategic documents.

Table 3.4. Actions steps for vocational skills programmes
Action steps and relevant stakeholders

Action steps

Main stakeholders

Take stock of the already available vocational skills training programmes and training facilities in the local communities


Decide on which training programmes to offer at CET institutions and which external providers to enter into partnerships with, in accordance with community needs (see Chapter 5)

CET Colleges, CLCs

Develop new vocational skills programmes (when needed) in close cooperation with SETAs and local employers (see Chapter 5)

CLCs, SETAs, employers

Make sure that accreditation of skills programmes (by SETAs and the relevant quality council) happens thoroughly, but swiftly. For SETAs who have limited experience or a poor track record in registering skills programmes, training and guidelines should be offered.

SETAs, DHET, SAQA, Quality Councils

Engage with local employers and SETAs to make sure that internship opportunities are available for CET graduates (see Chapter 5)

CLCs, SETAs, employers

Ensure that accompanying soft skills and remedial programmes are also available for vocational skills students, in order for them to increase their employability. Promote these programmes actively among the vocational skills students.


Increase the flexibility of programmes in TVET colleges (e.g. part-time and distance provision), so that adults with the motivation and capacities to enter the TVET system also have easy access.

DHET, TVET colleges

Coordinate closely with TVET colleges in the region to ensure that there are easy pathways from the CET vocational skills programmes into TVET programmes.

CET Colleges, CLCs, TVET colleges, SAQA, Quality Councils

Note: DHET: Department for Higher Education and Training; CLC: Community Learning Centre; SETA: Sector Education and Training Authority; TVET: Technical and Vocational Education and Training; SAQA: South African Qualifications Authority; NGO: Non-Governmental Organisation.

Box 3.5. +Capaz: Occupational skills training for vulnerable groups in Chile

The +Capaz programme was introduced in Chile in 2015, offering subsidised training to vulnerable youth and women, as well as disabled persons. The programme is only open to the population with low levels of income and with no or weak labour market attachment. The +Capaz programme is composed of:

  • Learning phase: Participants take part in training programmes in trades with a duration of between 180 and 300 hours. The Public Employment Service (PES) selects the programmes based on labour market needs. Each programme, irrespective of the trade, includes a 60-hour transversal skills package. The programmes are delivered by Technical training organisations, TVET colleges, higher education institutions and NGOs, which receive payments for every hour of training provided under the +Capaz programme. A minimum attendance of 75% is required to successfully finish the learning phase.

  • Employment intermediation: Participants who have completed the learning phase can benefit from employment intermediation, consisting of (optional) practical training and job placement. Employment intermediation is the responsibility of the training providers, which receive payments for each job placements with a minimum employment duration of three months and a salary at least equal to the minimum wage.

  • Education level upgrading: Participants who did not finish secondary education can participate in a 150-hours training programme to prepare for the national examinations.

  • Continuing education: Participants with upper secondary educational attainment who finished the +Capaz programme can receive financing to continue their education in the same field as the +Capaz training. The +Capaz training is recognized as an initial module in higher education.

  • Recognition: Around 20% of participants who finish the learning phase can get their previous work experience recognized through the Chilean system for Recognition of Prior Learning.

Participants receive transport and food allowances, as well as accident insurance. Participants with children younger than six years old can benefit from childcare. In recognition of the fact that skills gaps are not the only barrier to labour market participation for the +Capaz target group, personalised socio-labour support, including career guidance, is provided to participants during the learning phase.

The programme was piloted in 2014 with around 3000 participants. The goal of the programme is to train 450 000 individuals in the period 2014-18. An evaluation of the first year of the programme showed that 5% of participants dropped out during the programme, and an additional 17% had to re-take the programme because of low attendance. A preliminary analysis of labour market outcomes of 2015 participants showed that 11.4% of participants found work within three months after completion of the learning phase and stayed in work for at least three months. The share increases to 24.3% when looking at at least one month of employment in the three months following the completion of the learning phase.1 The labour market outcomes are better for male youth (42.9%, using the one month employment requirement) than for female youth (27.1%) and female adults (17.4%). Looking at the evolution of employment rates of participants after finishing the programme, the analysis shows an average monthly increase of the rate of 2.4 percentage points.

A second evaluation exercise in 2016 showed that the program had positive, albeit small, and consistent impacts on labour market participation, duration of employment and wages of participants. The evaluation highlighted the importance of personalised support and the availability of childcare. Some weaknesses of the programme were also brought to light, including the fact that the practical training, while useful, was not an attractive option for participants because it delayed access to paid employment and childcare was not available. Another important weakness of the programme was the lack of experience of training providers in employment intermediation, resulting in low placement rates.

Source: Brown et al. (2016[27]); ClioDinámica Asesorías (2017[28])

3.4. Non-formal programmes

The South African skills system is very strongly focused on formal training, registered on the NQF. Under the levy system, for example, the PIVOTAL requirement that 80% of the discretionary grants is earmarked for training on scarce and critical skills (see Chapter 1) limits eligible training to quality assured training registered on the NQF. While the formal training system clearly has the advantage of an established quality assurance system, it is relatively rigid. Many training programmes that are useful from an employer and employee or job-seeker perspective do not fit into the NQF. To complement the formal programmes, CET should also provide useful non-formal training opportunities. As for skills programmes, non-formal programmes might already be delivered by non-government providers, and these providers could potentially be subsided to continue or expand their offer. The CET system could provide non-formal training programmes in a variety of areas:

Employability skills: These training programmes should help participants, and especially those with limited work experience, in finding suitable job opportunities and adjusting more easily to the workplace environment. Employability skills include, for example, CV-writing, job interview training, but also softer skills training such as punctuality, politeness and familiarity with workplace practises. The curricula for employability skills programmes could be based on existing guides describing skill required in the workplace, as many employers have some type of workplace readiness programmes (see Box 3.6).

Box 3.6. Employers’ workplace readiness programmes
New hires often lack the soft skills that are needed in the workplace. This is especially the case for youth and adults with no or limited work experience. Employers sometimes help their new hires develop these critical skills through short workplace readiness programmes.

EOH, a large technology service provider in South Africa, organises workshops for their newly hired employees with the purpose of developing critical interpersonal skills, work ethic and understanding of the dynamics of a workplace. Their programme consists of five modules: i) Big picture thinking, ii) Interpersonal awareness, iii) Structured thinking, iv) Analytical thinking, and v) Innovation and creative thinking. Topics covered in the EOH workplace readiness programme include working within a team, professional dress code, communicating effectively, handling feedback appropriately, and managing time. The programme is described in detailed in an accompanying learner guide.

Source: EOH Learning & Development (2016[29])

Entrepreneurship and management skills: These programmes could be delivered to help individuals set up their own business. This includes training on practical things such as how to develop a business plan or obtain funding, but also training in areas such as accounting. Survey evidence suggests that only 38% of South African adults believe they have the skills and knowledge to start a business, which is much lower than in many other emerging economies (see Figure 3.1). CET institutions that deliver these programmes should have close ties with employers in their community, so that new start-ups can have a network of mentors that can give them practical advice. Individuals who are already operating an informal business should be able to participate in these types of programmes to help them formalise their business.

Figure 3.1. Perceived entrepreneurial capabilities are low in South Africa
Share of population (aged 18-64) who believe to have the required skills and knowledge to start a business (2014)

Note: 2013 data for Czech Republic, Latvia, Namibia, Nigeria, Korea and Turkey.

Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

Digital skills: Possessing the skills needed to use digital tools and technologies is becoming increasingly important, not only in the labour market but also in daily life. Digital skills programmes could teach participants the basics of computer use, including the use of word processing and spreadsheets, but also how to search the internet and use social media. In Mexico, adults can participate in digital skills programmes in digital inclusion centres spread across the country (see Box 3.7). In addition, more specialised digital programmes could be offered, such as programming or coding (as in the example of France discussed above in Box 3.4). Multiple organisations in South Africa are specialised in organising these types of digital programmes for youth and adults. WeThinkCode, for example, offers a tuition-free two-year coding programme that is sponsored by companies and is open and accessible to all talented young people (17-35 years old), irrespective of their educational background.

Life skills: Communities would also benefit from non-formal training in areas such as healthcare, wellbeing, climate change and anti-corruption. This can take the form of seminars and workshops, but also short-term training programmes. Other actors might already be delivering these types of life skills programmes, including NGOs and other government Departments.

Several countries have set up training institutions that provide both formal and non-formal training. In Argentina, a new type of intuition, the Casas del Futuro, was introduced in 2016, bringing together vocational skills and non-formal programmes (see Box 3.8). Sweden and other Scandinavian countries have a long tradition of Folk high schools, which provide second change education, non-formal training and vocational skill programmes (see Box 3.9).

Box 3.7. Digital inclusion centres in Mexico

In Mexico, a national network of community learning centres focussing on digital skills education and training was established in 2015. The network currently consists of 32 centres (Puntos Mexico Conectado), spread over the different states. These centres are open to everyone and provide access to digital technologies and training on how to use them. Training is available in four areas:

  • Digital ABC: These courses help individuals develop basic digital skills for day-to-day use, including browsing the internet and using a computer for personal finances.

  • Miscellaneous digital programmes: In these programmes, children and adults use digital technologies in a practical and entertaining way to stimulate curiosity and creativity. Examples include robotics and programming courses.

  • Digital innovation and entrepreneurship: This programme helps aspiring entrepreneurs to develop new products and business plans, and existing entrepreneurs to improve their performance. The programme consists of three phases: design, create and implement.

  • Digital culture: Open space where people can discover the talent of new artists in the digital world. The aim is to promote the use of technology in daily lives.

Three years after its inception, the network of community learning centres counts 636 000 registered members and 465 000 individuals participate in the programmes.

Source: Gobierno de la Republica (2018[30]); Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (2018[31])

Recommended action steps

Table 3.5 provides some possible action steps that could be taken to implement and improve non-formal programmes in CET. For each action step, the most relevant stakeholders concerned are listed. The list of stakeholders is not exhaustive, and cooperation between different stakeholders is encouraged. The actions focus on the short- and medium-term, and a more ambitious action plan could be developed for the longer term in line with the vision for CET from the DHET’s strategic documents.

Table 3.5. Action steps for non-formal programmes
Action steps and relevant stakeholders

Action steps

Main stakeholders

Decide on which non-formal programmes to offer and their content in close cooperation with local NGOs, employers and government departments (see Chapter 5)

CET Colleges, CLC, NGOs, employers, DHET and other government departments

Develop a close network of formal and informal SMMEs that could serves as mentors for students from the entrepreneurship skills programme


Develop standardized CET certificates that serve as proof of (successful) completion of some of the non-formal programmes


Note: DHET: Department for Higher Education and Training; CLC: Community Learning Centre; NGO: Non-Governmental Organisation.

Box 3.8. Casas del Futuro – Offering training and guidance for Argentinian youth

The first Casa del Futuro was opened in Argentina in 2016, with the aim to provide opportunities for personal development to youth aged 15 to 24. Currently, three Casas del Futuro are operational in Argentina, located in areas with a large group of vulnerable youth. The project provides free workshops, training in traditional and digital trades, cultural activities and sports. Courses include digital literacy, robotics, new technologies, coding, languages, journalism, but also yoga, dance and painting. Talks are organised on topics such as sexuality, violence and addictions. The project also provides career guidance and information on government programmes. The project is led by an interdisciplinary team, which stimulates, supports and follows up the participants.

The Casas del Futuro have strong links with organisations, industries and firms in their communities, as such creating a network that facilitates the entry of participants into the labour market. Course offerings, especially for the traditional trades, are determined in line with community needs. Between 2016 and mid-2018, almost 11 000 youth visited the centres, and over 1 300 activities were organised. The majority of participants are over 18 years old, and there are more female than male participants. Many of the participants are also enrolled in formal education institutions, be it at the secondary level or higher.

In recognition of the work that non-governmental organisations are doing to help vulnerable youth, the Argentinian government put in place the Acá Estamos programme. The aim of the programme is to develop closer ties with these non-governmental organisations and to reinforce them to become key spaces for vulnerable youth to work on personal development. In the second phase of the Acá Estamos programme, the government wants to further develop the relationships with these organisations and help them grow, by providing equipment and training. Over time, some of these projects could become similar to Casas del Futuro, with the benefit that they require less infrastructure investment than the traditional Casas de Futuro (which need to be built from scratch).

Source: Ministerio de Desarrollo Social (2016[32])

3.5. Information, guidance and recognition of prior learning

Giving information and guidance to adults about different training options

Adults need to have information about their different education and training options. Learners who choose programmes that meet their interest and preferences, and for which they have clear expectations, are more likely to be successful in such programmes and complete them (Musset and Mytna Kurekova, 2018[7]). A first step to better inform adults about the CET system and the programmes it offers, could be to launch a comprehensive communication campaign together with an exhaustive website. The emphasis of such an information campaign should be on the value of acquiring skills in adulthood, and the range of programmes available and their labour market outcomes. An interesting example of a website with comprehensive information on training programmes can be found in Peru, where the Ministries of Education and Labour’s website “Ponte en Carrera” (Get into a career) provides data on the cost and labour market outcomes of specific programmes of study at all of the country’s technical institutes and universities (McCarthy and Musset, 2016[33]).

Box 3.9. Folk high schools: Providing second chance and non-formal training in Sweden

Folk high schools in Sweden are independent adult education institutions that provide a range of education and training programmes. The concept of Folk high school was introduced in Sweden in 1868, and today around 150 schools are operational across the country. Swedish folk high schools offer:

  • Second chance education: Students can participate in a General Courses programme that allows them to catch up to an upper secondary level and get access to higher education

  • Non-formal programmes: Non-formal programmes are mainly offered in the field of arts, health, environment and nature, international topics and languages, media and communication, and society and religion.

  • Vocational programmes: Vocational programmes are offered at the upper-secondary and the post-secondary level. Examples of vocational programmes include journalism, personal assistant and treatment assistant.

Around two-thirds of folk high schools are run by popular movements in civic society, such as organisations within the workers’ temperance or Free Church movements, while the rest are run by county councils or regions. Folk High Schools are not bound by national curricula: each folk high school decides independently what courses it provides, and freely designs its teaching. Many Folk high school offer boarding for students.

In addition to Folk high schools, Sweden also has a system of study associations that organise study circles across the country. Jointly, the folk high schools and study associations are known as Folkbildning. The main priorities of the system are: i) enlightenment and context, ii) accessibility and inclusion, iii) citizens and civil society, iv) working life and lifelong learning, and v) culture and creativity.

Every year, Folk high schools welcome around 90 000 participants in short courses and 27 000 in long courses. The biggest group of participants are youth aged 18-24. The majority of participants in long courses have low levels of education attainment. A survey among 2013 Folk high school students showed that they are largely satisfied, as their studies gave them better opportunities for continuing education and training and in the labour market. Participants also reported that the Folk high school studies stimulated their interest in social issues and culture, and helped bolster their self-confidence. Satisfaction is highest among women and foreign-born.

Source: OECD (2016[34]); Folkbildningsrådet (2013[35]; 2015[36]).

Given that only a limited number of programmes will be provided in each Community Learning Centre, it is important that individuals understand which training options exist in their community or close by. CET counsellors should inform individuals about the programmes available in Community Learning Centres, and provide information on: further education programmes in the colleges and universities in the region, and about the financial support available; NGO training programmes; and training programmes provided or funded, for example, by SETAs, employers or the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The counsellors should actively promote training that is relevant to community needs. This approach should be taken together with the development of specific information sources to adults outside and independently of the institutions themselves.

At the same time, the CET counsellors should also provide guidance on labour market opportunities. For this they should cooperate with the South African Public Employment Service (Employment Service South Africa, ESSA), but also be in close contact with the employers in the community, both in the formal and informal sector. Good career guidance services provide job seekers with a wide range of resources, as is the case for the career guidance providers in the Cité des Métiers network (see Box 3.10).

The Department for Higher Education and Training offers elaborate career development services (Kheta), including a career advice helpline, radio programmes that provide information and advice on careers, and a website that helps individuals make informed education, training and career choices (National Career Advice Portal). These existing resources and services should be used as much as possible to provide guidance and information in CET institutions.

Box 3.10. Cité des Métiers – A worldwide network of career guidance providers

A Cité des Métiers is a place where people can find information on how to build their professional future. Cités are built on the principles of open access and free of charge and anonymous use. The mission of the Cités des Métiers is to give users access to resources that should help them formulate and achieve their career goals and support them in their choices. This is done by providing in one single space:

  • Interviews with professionals from the fields of counselling and professional life

  • Free access documentation on employment, careers and vocational training

  • IT resources and multimedia areas

  • One-day information sessions, symposia and meetings organised by the Cité’s partners or produced in cooperation with external partners

These services are provided in five areas: i) choose your career path, ii) find a job, iii) change your professional life, evolve, validate your skills and experience, iv) organise your career path and training, and v) create your own business. The services are open to everyone, irrespective of age and labour market status.

Institutions can submit a request to obtain the Cité des Métiers label. The first Cité was opened in France in 1993, and today they can be found in nine countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Togo. Within the common framework, each individual Cité can develop its own activities based on the needs of its target audience.

Source: Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie (2018[37]).

Recognising existing skills to give more flexibility

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) is an important tool to help individuals find employment opportunities or advance in their career, especially in a country like South Africa where many people have been denied access to formal education and training in the past. In practice, many adults have work experience and/or acquired skills both formally and informally. Skill recognition can reduce the direct and opportunity costs of formal learning. It can helps motivating adults and sustain their engagement in education and training programmes (Kis and Windisch, 2018[38]).

All qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework can be obtained in whole or part through RPL. OECD (2017[39]) points out that, while the RPL system is well developed in South Africa, there are multiple barriers for people to use it, including lack of awareness and complexity. CET could play a role in making better use of existing RPL opportunities, by providing guidance and assistance. CET Counsellors can help promote RPL in communities, and identify people who could benefit from it. Additionally, CET staff could assist RPL candidates in putting together their portfolio. The use of RPL to shorten programme duration and potentially increase completion would require developing the skills of staff in CET institutions so that they are capable of RPL assessments, acknowledging that these procedures can be costly and time-consuming. Breaking down education and training programmes into discrete modules to allow for course exemptions and different paces of study can also be challenging (OECD, 2014[40]).

Recommended action steps

Table 3.6 provides some possible action steps that could be taken to provide information, guidance and RPL services in CET. For each action step, the most relevant stakeholders concerned are listed. The list of stakeholders is not exhaustive, and cooperation between different stakeholders is encouraged. The actions steps focus on the short- and medium-term, and a more ambitious action plan could be developed for the longer term in line with the vision for CET from the DHET’s strategic documents.

Table 3.6. Actions steps for information, guidance and RPL
Action steps and relevant stakeholders

Action steps

Main stakeholders

Improve information about CET provision and launch a comprehensive communication campaign to raise awareness of the CET system and the new skills programmes it offers

DHET, CET Colleges, ESSA

Meet with training providers in the region to understand their course offering. Ask for brochures on their programmes to make available at CET institutions.

CET Colleges, CLCs, TVET colleges, universities, private providers, NGOs

Develop materials on government support for further education and training to be made available at CET institutions (e.g. NSFAS bursaries).


Facilitate coordination between CET institutions and Labour Centres. CET counsellors should have up-to-date knowledge of job vacancies at Labour Centres and should refer individuals to register with the Labour Centres, and Labour Centre workers should have a good understanding of the courses and services offered at the CET institutions. (see Chapter 5)

CET Colleges, CLCs, Labour Centres, DHET, DoL

Train CET staff to be able to deliver guidance in terms of training and job opportunities. Counsellors should keep their knowledge up-to-date through regular training, especially concerning available training opportunities and labour market needs.

DHET, CET Colleges, CLCs

Train CET staff to better understand the functioning and requirements of RPL, so they can offer guidance and assistance to interested individuals. This training can be done by experienced staff from TVET colleges and universities

DHET, CET Colleges, CLCs, TVET colleges, universities, SAQA

Develop materials that can be used by CET staff to assist individuals in the elaboration of their RPL portfolio. Organise information sessions on RPL, possibly in cooperation with nearby TVET colleges

DHET, CET Colleges, CLCs, SAQA,TVET colleges

Note: DHET: Department for Higher Education and Training; DoL: Department of Labour; CLC: Community Learning Centre; TVET: Technical and Vocational Education and Training; SAQA: South African Qualifications Authority; NGO: Non-Governmental Organisation.


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← 1. The Chilean labour market is characterised by a large share of (short) temporary contracts. The share of temporary workers (as a percentage of dependant workers) is the highest among OECD countries (28% in 2017, compared to the OECD average of 11%). Just over 45% of dependent workers in Chile have tenure below six months (the OECD average is 31%). (OECD Labour Force Statistics Database)

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