LMI programme > Publications

Towards responsiveness and employability in the FET college sector

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Corporate author/s:

Labour Market Intelligence Partnership (LMIP)

Person/s author/s:

Wedekind, Volker


working paper



This paper reviews the field of educational research in South Africa in terms of the allied concepts of responsiveness and employability. The paper discusses the definitions of the two concepts and outlines the debates around the definitions of the concepts. A central feature of the debates is the degree to which both concepts are part of a broader neo‐liberal agenda which hollows out the educational dimensions of vocational education. Employability is often defined in terms of general, generic or 'soft' skills, and the argument made here is that employability must include the full range of skills required to access, perform and be mobile within the world of work. The paper then reviews a selection of the key research papers that are focused on aspects of employability and responsiveness. Three themes are identified: Linkages; Curriculum; and Transitions, Destinations and Tracer Studies. Linkages and partnerships are a central feature of responsiveness as they demonstrate connections between colleges and the employers and wider community they are responding to. The paper notes that the bulk of the research was conducted in the period 2000‐2010 and that there has been a significant tapering off of research since then. Furthermore, the concepts themselves have not been seriously interrogated since they were first deployed a decade ago. There is thus a need to reinvigorate the field with both a critical engagement with the concepts themselves in the context of major social change, but also to develop new capacity so that the research can be taken forward.

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