Vocational training is training that is specific to a career or a trade, meaning that it focuses on the practical application of skills in the workplace. Instead of just giving you theoretical knowledge about a certain field, vocational training helps you develop practical skills to perform a certain role, and enables you to be productive from the first day that you walk into a job.
There are countless benefits to pursuing a vocational qualification, and many people don’t understand the many options available for school-leavers (and in some instances even people who have not completed school), or opportunities available to those who follow the vocational training path.
Elbie Liebenberg, MD at Oxbridge Academy, a private college that serves more than 20,000 South African distance learning students every year, says there are five reasons why choosing vocational training is a great way for young South Africans to get their foot on the career ladder:
A vocational college will provide you the opportunity to develop and receive recognition for skills that can kickstart your career.
Liebenberg warns that too many young people opt for generic qualifications, and then later find out that they are not adequately prepared for the real world of work, where employers look for people who can do specific jobs in specific sectors.
“Some qualifications will give you theoretical knowledge in your chosen field of study, but that does not mean that you are prepared for the workplace or that you possess the practical skills you need to perform a particular job role,” notes Liebenberg. “Vocational training develops practical, immediately relevant skills which opens doors in the job market. Vocational learners acquire both theoretical knowledge as well as practical skills, which better equips them for the workplace.”
A good college must have established relationships with top professionals and employers in many different fields. This means that the programmes they offer, and the curriculum for those programmes, are fine-tuned to make sure that they meet the needs of the current marketplace.
The career options in the vocational sector are virtually endless, and incorporate almost all sectors of the economy.
“Depending on which vocational training programme you complete, you could pursue a career as an electrician, motor mechanic, boilermaker, beautician, bookkeeper, computer programmer, graphic designer, office assistant, childminder, or HR practitioner, to name only a few of the options. Additionally, many of these fields allow you to start your own business, making you less dependent on the current state of the job market.”
Liebenberg notes that a vocational college that allows you to study via distance learning gives you the option of beginning your education when you want, and from wherever you are based. Studying via distance learning also allows you to continue working and attend to family and other commitments more easily than other modes of study.
Vocational education is designed to prepare you for entry-level employment in the career of your choice, as quickly as possible. Most vocational programmes can be completed within a few months’ time, and can be complemented with additional qualifications to build a strong skillstack.
“Since these courses prepare you for the workplace, and are designed to fill workplace skills gaps, you will be strongly positioned for an entry level position,” says Liebenberg.
When it comes to remuneration, vocational careers are often well-paid, and it is not unusual for someone with a technical qualification from a college to out-earn their peers with a general academic degree.
“This is because of the high demand in South Africa for a range of skills that will allow you to earn a good salary – or build your own business – if you have the right certification, experience, and training. Land surveyors, electrical technicians, riggers, executive assistants, HR professionals, web and software developers, and sales managers, for instance, are all positions that can be reached without a degree.
“Ultimately, prospective students should make the decision about what and where to study only after having considered all their options,” says Liebenberg. “But very importantly, this consideration should include the realisation that a degree is not the only option.”
Liebenberg reminds prospective students that in order to find the right course and the right institution, one should always consider factors such as accreditation, fees, student support services, course duration, and curriculum before registering.
“We urge prospective students to first do their homework and identify their needs and expectations, and to then consider what their personal circumstances allow before finding the course and institution that will be the best fit for them personally,” concludes Liebenberg.