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How can universities and colleges improve the alignment between education and work? A systemic, demand-led approach to skills planning and development

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Corporate author/s:

Labour Market Intelligence Partnership (LMIP), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)

Person/s author/s:

Kruss, Glenda, Petersen, Il-haam


briefing or fact sheet



This policy brief proposes a framework that can be used by PSET organisations and skills planners to analyse the current alignment - or misalignment - between labour market demand and skills supply within a system. This framework provides a basis for identifying appropriate change mechanisms and intervention strategies to promote better alignment. The framework is based on the systems of innovation approach and focuses on two key dimensions. First, it emphasises the need to analyse the alignment in the capabilities and goals of the actors involved in skills development networks - that is, 'network alignment'. Second, it concentrates on the capability of universities, TVET colleges, government agencies and firms to form effective linkages and learn through interaction - that is, their 'interactive capabilities'. For instance, a TVET college or university may have well qualified engineering lecturers but no way to communicate with local firms, or no support to change the curriculum in response to changing technology in a specific sector. The change intervention required relates to finding dynamic internal and external interface mechanisms. However, at another college lecturers may lack the necessary competencies, which means different change interventions may be needed to improve their qualifications and expertise. We have used this framework to conduct case studies of three skills development networks: astronomy and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, automotive component manufacturers in the Eastern Cape, and sugar-cane growers and millers in KwaZulu-Natal (see Kruss et al. 2014). Examples are drawn from the sugar case studies to illustrate the framework and its potential value.

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