KwaZulu-Natal TVET colleges benefit from the High Gear initiative

KwaZulu-Natal TVET colleges benefit from the High Gear initiative

After a challenging past two years for South Africa’s Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, the automotive components manufacturing industry’s skills initiative known as “High Gear” is advancing the quality and relevance of electrical and mechanical engineering courses in the TVET system. Elangeni TVET College is a key partner to the initiative in KwaZulu-Natal and is already seeing the benefits of High Gear’s collaborative approach.

South Africa’s TVET system has a policy mandate to deliver practical, industry-aligned skills training to young people that enables them to find employment and succeed in their careers. The TVET college system functions best when it partners with industry to develop a skills pipeline that also furthers the country’s modern economy. High Gear’s mobilisation of one of South Africa’s most significant economic sectors – automotive components manufacturing – to add value to the TVET system while also responding to employer demand is demonstrating real results.

High Gear takes an industry-led approach to strengthening the TVET skills pipeline – most notably through a partnership between the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (NAACAM) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). IYF manages the initiative.

Through this unique public-private partnership, High Gear is equipping the public TVET system to deliver market-relevant education to engineering students, including technical skills, work readiness skills, and higher-order thinking capabilities. The automotive component manufacturing industry in eThekwini Municipality—represented by NAACAM under High Gear—plays a proactive role in shaping course upgrades and delivery approaches, in close collaboration with DHET and TVET college partners.

This approach is providing TVET students and lecturers with increased exposure to industry expertise—both in classrooms and in workplaces—while also developing TVET and industry partnerships that can evolve as industry needs continue to change in KwaZulu-Natal. This model also ensures that TVET colleges are more strategically aligned to the South African Automotive Masterplan 2035, especially in developing market-aligned skills that support the industry’s localisation and transformation objectives in eThekwini and elsewhere.

In High Gear’s current curricula upgrade launch phase, the project is already generating results at Elangeni TVET College. Lecturers at this college have completed upskilling workshops with industry experts and accessed practical workshop training to enhance their delivery of industry-aligned teaching. High Gear has also worked with Elangeni College to design and introduce lecturing demonstration kits that enhance engineering students’ practical skills. These demonstration kits are proving to be especially impactful in engineering theory courses that have traditionally lacked in student workshop facilities.

Kessni Uphadaya, assistant director for curriculum development at Elangeni TVET College, says High Gear is introducing many firsts for the college: “From the inception workshop on curriculum development to the delivery of engineering toolkits, this has brought about immense change to our teaching and learning strategy. We can confidently say that lecturers in the mechanical and engineering fields are now more enthusiastic and confident about their teaching content.”

According to Uphadaya, High Gear’s support has also improved through the introduction of project-based learning in TVET classrooms. “This is a more student-centred approach for inquiry-based learning. These futuristic learning concepts are being explored in the mechanical and engineering offerings at all seven TVET campuses. The 25 lecturers involved are more actively involved in diverse lesson planning methodologies and a comprehensive perspective of instruction-based teaching is filling the gap for the college by providing students with market-relevant skills,” she says.

The international donor-funded initiative has allowed Elangeni TVET College to collaborate with other industries and set up bespoke training interventions. “This allows us to better serve the needs of our internal and external communities and improve outcomes. The combined interventions from High Gear have led to an all-round improvement in teaching and learning and are aligned to the long-term vision of Elangeni to become more responsive to the needs of an ever-changing sector,” says Uphadaya.

High Gear implementation in KwaZulu-Natal is backed by funding from the UK Government’s Skills for Prosperity Programme, while in Eastern Cape the project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

Elangeni TVET College lecturer, Mkhungo Nombuso says he is excited by the approach of providing practical and theoretical training: “This will take our teaching methods to a higher level and improve students’ understanding of the material. As lecturers, we have also gained much experience during the workshops, including industry context and practical aspects of the training. Students have been asking for practical involvement and they will be happy.”

Fellow lecturer Trevor Doncabe says the impact of High Gear on teaching methods so far is that students are more attentive in class and participate more in class activities. “As a lecturer, I have also developed new methods of checking understanding. I have also gained practical experience in using technical instruments, creating improved lesson plans and incorporating practical activities and audio-visual resources with information from the prescribed textbooks,” Doncabe adds.

Doncabe says he has high hopes for High Gear. “I am looking forward to being part of this programme that helps equip students with skills needed in the industry. They are being exposed to both the theoretical knowledge and practical operation of electronic systems and machines – the building blocks of complex industry systems,” he says.



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