With employers increasingly looking at skills rather than qualifications, vocational education can, in many fields, be just as valuable as a university degree. If you’re looking for a way to build your skills and reach your career dreams, then a vocational education could be worth much more than you think!

Definition – Vocational Education
Instruction intended to equip persons for industrial or commercial occupations. It may be obtained either formally in trade schools, technical secondary schools, or in on-the-job training programs or, more informally, by picking up the necessary skills on the job. Source: Encyclopaedia Brittanica


Vocational education is generally practical in nature, providing you with the education and training you need for specific jobs or careers. In some instances, these courses also allow you to continue your studies at a higher level, by giving you access to degree programmes at technical universities (ie. Universities of Technology).

Vocational courses are available in a wide variety of fields, ranging from tourism and hospitality to engineering, beauty therapy, computers, and childhood development, to name but a few.

What are the advantages of vocational education?

  • It’s cost effective: With the price of university education increasing, more and more students are turning to vocational education as an affordable alternative. You can do a number of vocational education courses for the same price as one university degree.
  • It’s career-specific: Vocational courses are a particularly good choice if you know exactly which career you are interested in. Instead of starting with a broad array of subjects, they allow you to immediately start studying in areas that are specific to your chosen field. For example, if you know that you want to be a motor mechanic, then you can go straight into a specialised motor mechanic course.
  • It’s flexible: In many instances, vocational courses do not restrict you to a rigid schedule of attending classes every day. If you choose to study your course through a distance learning college, then you will have the freedom to study in your own time, and can even find opportunities to put your skills into practice with part-time jobs, workshops or volunteering.
  • It’s practical: There are a number of fields where practical experience is viewed as more valuable than qualifications. In hands-on fields such as these, employers would prefer to hire a candidate who can walk in and start being productive immediately, rather than having to spend time and money on training. Some examples of these type of careers include IT technicians, boilermakers, Millwrights, beauty therapists and childcare workers.


What is a vocational education worth to employers?

In South Africa, a lack of key skills is a constant cause of concern for employers. In a 2016 report by the City and Guilds Group, which surveyed more than 8000 respondents including CEOs, middle managers, and employees from four countries, it was found that 82% of South African respondents believed that skills gaps were present in their organisation. Employers are therefore increasingly seeking candidates who have the hands-on skills needed to fill these gaps.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s government has recognised that vocational education plays a crucial role in providing education for millions, and developing the skills needed to align the country with international standards.

There is a common stereotype that vocational education is a lesser form of education than a university degree, but this simply isn’t true. Employers and government both view it as a valuable alternative, and you should too!

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