Job readiness of further education and training (FET) mechanical engineering graduates.
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The scarcity of skilled technical artisans is one of the major stumbling blocks to the economic growth of South Africa. To address the skills scarcity, the South African Department of Education has acknowledged Further Education and Training (FET) as the key driver to prepare graduates for the world of work. FET colleges were therefore placed at the centre of the national skills development strategy, to ensure that there is skills transfer from learning to the workplace. To drive the implementation of the skills development strategy, the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) system was developed in order to implement different sector skills plans. The Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MERSETA) identified a serious shortage of fitters, turners, welders and boilermakers in the metals and engineering sector, which is in urgent need of capacity building. Although FET colleges are producing mechanical engineering graduates, there has been a growing concern amongst metals and engineering companies in Durban, about the job readiness of these graduates. This study was conducted to determine if this phenomenon existed in the metals and engineering sector in Durban. The main aim of the study is to determine what job skills are required for FET graduates by the metals and engineering sector in Durban. The study focused on nine companies within the sector that trained FET graduates to qualify as artisans. The study also focussed on the skills required by the sector, the skill shortcomings of the graduates, the action by the companies to get new graduates job ready, and the activities required to rectify the skills shortage. A quantitative research approach modified by the use of a questionnaire was selected for use in the exploration of the study objectives. A probability sample of fifty-two foremen, who trained and developed FET graduates, was drawn from the nine companies which represented 86% of the total population of sixty foremen. The nine metals and engineering companies were chosen since they were in urgent need of technical skills, for capacity building, and competiveness. Most respondents indicated concern about the development of the skills of their artisans, and about the job readiness (the capacity to fulfil the needs of a company as a business) of FET graduates. Based on the findings of the study it is recommended that more collaboration between government, FET colleges and industry, should take place, in order to ensure that skills development programmes adequately address the work-based element of training.