TVET colleges to offer electric vehicle skills training

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 24 May 2023

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) is paving the way for the introduction of electric vehicle (EV) skills training at Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

This week marked a step forward in this process, when research commissioned by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and funded by the British High Commission was handed over to the DHETin a ceremony hosted by BMW South Africa in Johannesburg.

The research assesses SA’s current and potential readiness for the EV transition. The findings will influence future upskilling, upscaling and capacitating in the EV training sector.

Based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods, the research uncovers the skills dearth in SA’s EV industry.

The study noted that local students, in particular, lack skills related to producing and maintaining EVs – which are skills of the future in the automotive industry.

Among the competency deficiencies, it highlights diagnostic skills, equipment and engine repair, troubleshooting skills and system design as the most in-demand skills.

Through its High Gear initiative launched in 2019, the IYF is leading work on supporting SA’s TVET colleges to align themselves with critical industry requirements and ensure young people can transition into the workplace.

This week’s event provided insight from various collaborative entities about the future of EVs in South Africa, and particularly the significance of TVETs in curating new curricula for the inevitable influx of EVs into SA in the long-term.

Speaking at the event, Thivhudziwi Vele, head of curriculum portfolio for TVET colleges at DHET, explained: “If we are to have qualified EV engineers in the country in the next five years, or even the next 10 years, we have a limited window of opportunity to ensure EV courses and practical training are available.”

SA’s EV market trails behind the global market, with just over 1 665 units on the roads. However, experts say it is ripe for more growth, provided a conducive environment is created for SA’s inevitable transition to e-mobility, according to the International Energy Agency’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook report for 2023.

Speakers at the event – including Khalil Patel, programme director for High Gear − highlighted the importance of championing critical thinking in TVET courses.

They also noted that future EV courses need to have a foundational umbrella understanding of the EV market and green supply chain − and not only be rooted in a practical understanding of EV mechanics.

Patel further emphasised the importance of recognising the skills gap among lecturers in TVETs.

The research, conducted by Ngawethu Consulting, provides a guideline on how IYF and DHET plan to move forward with pragmatically and functionally resourcing and capacitating TVET lecturers with the knowledge, curricula and requirements necessary to prepare automotive engineering students for the new world of EVs.

DHET has not yet provided a date for the formal introduction of EV courses at TVET colleges.