Enhancing learner support in the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector through collaboration between NGOs and SETAs in South Africa: The case of the merSETA Access Trust Project (More Ickson Manda)

In order to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness that enslaves the majority of youth from disadvantaged communities, young people face the dual battle of finding belief in themselves and persuading others to believe in them. Sourcing funding to open the doors of training institutions, and ultimately gaining entry into the workforce are known challenges that young people face.

The purpose of this study was to assess the effectiveness of collaborative initiatives between Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in enhancing learner support in the manufacturing and engineering sector, by focusing on one such collaboration.

The study was conducted in the form of a case study, using interviews, and document analysis as primary methods of collecting data. A review of literature was also conducted in order to obtain insights into similar programmes undertaken elsewhere.

Evidence from the literature shows that on average, 70% of the families of higher education drop-outs surveyed were in the category of "low economic status". Many of those who dropped out indicated that they worked to augment their meagre financial resources, no doubt adding to their stress levels and distracting them from their studies" (Letseka and Maile, 2008:5 ). In acknowledging this reality, the Presidency advocates that in order to improve the number of learners completing their studies, funding should reward graduate output without reducing the attractiveness of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds (The Presidency, 2014 ).

Economic disadvantage is not the only barrier affecting success of previously economically disadvantaged learners. According to Prinsloo (2009 ), other factors affecting the success rate of learners in tertiary institutions include poor guidance and lack of psychological support. These dynamics affect the ability of learners to cope with study pressure and as well as their preparation for the labour market.Findings from the study show that collaboration between SETAs and NGOs can enhance learner support and learner success rates. The study also found that financial, technical and social support all play an equally important role in learner success in technical and vocational education and training. However, more work still needs to be done to enhance the effectiveness of learner support through collaborative initiatives by SETAs and NGOs.

More Ickson Manda is the Manager: Knowledge Management at Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services SETA.

1. Letseka, M & Maile, S. (2008). High university drop-out rates: a threat to South Africa's future. HSRC Policy brief: Pretoria: HSRC.
2. The Presidency (2014). 20 year review: 1994 – 2014. Pretoria: The Presidency.
3. Prinsloo, P. (2009). Modelling throughput at UNISA: the key to successfully implementation of ODL. Pretoria:  UNISA.

NGOs and SETAs are encouraged to build a monitoring and evaluation framework into their collaborative initiatives as a way of clarifying expectations. To minimise the risk of misaligned expectations, it is recommended that it is extremely important from a contractual perspective to clarify the expectation upfront. More interventions should also be undertaken to increase the number of funded disadvantaged female learners in engineering related fields as the study found that the number of female learners who benefited from the merSETA Access Trust initiative was lower than male learners.


For further information contact More Ickson Manda at MManda@merseta.org.za