PARTNERSHIPS

Major success in developing TVET leadership in a blended learning context

Jul 23rd, 2021

TVET college managers have an integral role in shaping and transforming the quality of training offered within their colleges, and positioning them as centres of excellence. Strengthened institutional capacity is a critical success factor in tackling the mismatch between demand and supply of skills and addressing pervasive youth unemployment.

More recently, there is consensus that stronger cooperation and partnership between TVET colleges and industry is essential in fostering integrated learning and reinforcing the institutional capacities of TVET colleges to supply graduates who are employable, and adequately skilled for the world ofwork.

TVET managers are the cornerstone in bridging the gap between colleges and companies and building cooperative relationships with industry. Amongst other responsibilities, managers are tasked with ensuring quality in training delivery in the college context, forging opportunities for trainees to access workplace-based training in companies through networking and striving for excellence by benchmarking their respective colleges with international standards.

The DHET has placed great emphasis on the role of the manager in transforming the TVET sector towards employment orientation. Aligned to this, is the need to offer training interventions to strengthen the capacity of management in leading and driving change, and ensuring that institutions are agile, responsive, and future-oriented.

The qualification of college managers contributes to making vocational education and training an enabling factor, as envisaged by the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan and the National Skills Strategy.

In 2019, the DHET in partnership with the GIZ, Skills Development for a Green Economy Programme (SD4GE II), initiated and supported the development of a PGDip in TVET (Educational Leadership) with a view to strengthen leadership competencies of TVET management, and position TVET colleges as epicentres of quality vocational training, geared to meet industry needs. The Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ET DP SETA) is a critical funding partner of the programme, augmented by funding from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

A university partnership between the University of Pretoria and the Technical University of Munich was established to implement the programme, launched in February 2020 and with a first cohort of 29 TVET managers. The PGDip TVET programme is a one year, internationally benchmarked further professional qualification specialised to meet the needs of current and future TVET managers. Apart from generic management competencies, the programme aims to equip managers with tactical leadership skills necessary to lead and drive delivery of industry relevant training in TVET college contexts

Blended learning, practice-oriented approaches in the TVET college setting, and industry engagement are integral elements of the programme. Particular emphasis is placed on building a solid foundation for the managers to apply taught concepts and approaches, and direct application in their annual strategic plans. The application of newly acquired knowledge and skills is monitored on a continuous basis, to ensure that added value and full benefits of participating in the programme are attained.

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed significant strain on training delivery, and skills development, in a context where companies are under pressure to downscale, and unemployment is increasing. In the current environment, the expectation for TVET leaders to be responsive, and embrace innovative approaches and digital technologies has never been greater.

The PGDip in TVET, (launched in February last year) offers participants the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in implementing digital, future-oriented training solutions. Concerted efforts were made by the university partners to enable the implementation of a customised, intensive blended learning programme, entailing regular virtual contact sessions and continuous online asynchronous learning throughout the year. Programme participants benefitted from a range of digital material including videos, podcasts, narrated lecture notes and interview recordings. These future-oriented approaches to teaching and learning contributed immensely to the uniqueness and success of the programme.

An innovative three pillar mentoring framework was adopted, consisting of individual mentoring, peer-to-peer mentoring, and mentorship specific to TVET managers' areas of responsibility.

Through joint efforts of the university partners, and financial and technical contributions of DHET, ETDP SETA, and GIZ SD4GE, implementation of teaching and learning for the first cohort of PGDip participants was a resounding success — indicated by an overall pass rate of 86% in the programme. Seven TVET managers attained aggregate distinctions and received recognition at the University of Pretoria's Faculty of Education Teaching and Learning Awards. The partnership between the two universities has enabled benchmarking against international quality standards and sharing of good practice, and experience drawn from Germany's established dual vocational education system.

The PGDip graduates reiterated the added value of participating in the programme was professional development, and potential to become change agents within their colleges.

"Being part of the first cohort of the PGDip has enabled a paradigm shift in us, from managers to leaders, responsible for engaging and guiding staff and students, and delivering quality results", remarked one of the graduates. The graduate managers have now taken on the role of mentors for the second group of PGDip TVET participants, who began the programme in February this year.

Source: TVET College Times

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