Reconfiguring the post-school sector

The Labour Market Intelligence Partnership's research agenda is organised in six priority areas. Each research area has a leading subject specialist or team at its helm and a unique research objective, design and methodology.

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Credit: GK









Learn more about LMIP research leader and project director Dr Glenda Kruss of the Human Sciences Research Council 

Context and research objectives

Much research on skills in South African occurs in silos. There are experts who conduct research on higher education, others on TVET, others on ABET and so on. Building institutions with the capabilities to deliver on new policy mandates, and respond to multiple demands while retaining their core education purpose, is a critical challenge across the entire post-school education and training sector.

The interactive capability of universities, TVET colleges or private colleges, to respond to changing labour market demands, and to be flexible and adaptive in how they organise, is critical to their role in skills development.

The key strategic question underpinning the research for this research area of the LMIP is: How can interaction and alignment between diverse types of education and training systems and labour markets be enhanced, in a differentiated post-school sector?

Design and methodology

The novelty of this research is that it was designed as a set of comprehensive and conceptually integrated comparative case studies.

The first project conducted case studies of sectoral innovation systems as a whole.

The case studies investigated interaction and alignment around skills planning within and between all types of firms, all types of PSET systems, and all types of intermediary organisations, in an integrated cross-cutting manner.

The focus was three sectoral systems of innovation: sugar growing and milling in KwaZulu-Natal (Petersen 2015), automotive component manufacturing in the Eastern Cape (McGrath 2015), and astronomy and the SKA nationally (Gastrow 2015).

The second project focused on the relationship between educational processes and the employment of individuals, a significant policy concern and widely debated social issue in South Africa.

The apparent mismatch between industry needs and educational outcomes points to a potential lack of responsiveness on the part of the education institutions to enhance the employability of their graduates.

This project investigates the interface between the various dimensions of the curriculum and the drivers of institutional and curriculum responsiveness, within the context of debates about employment and employability.

The methodology was to use the lens of curriculum responsiveness to explore, through case studies, the relationship between education, training and employment in two economic sectors: agribusiness (sugar and forestry) and automotive production and maintenance.

From the design phase, we planned to analyse across and within these case studies once they were completed, to investigate critical issues comparatively and in greater depth.

For example, if we compare how well each of the sectoral systems meet their skills needs, we can identify organisational forms that work well in the sugar or automotive or SKA cases, that can be of wider relevance and application in other sectors and settings.

If we synthesise across the cases to investigate what is common to the effective interaction between firms and PSET providers in the higher education sub-system, we can identify targeted incentive mechanisms and interventions that may be significant for wider use across the PSET system.

We can also draw out news strategic insights by using the research literature on significant issues, to abstract from the empirical analysis of a single case.

For example, the sugar case highlighted the critical role of intermediaries in skills planning, so we were led to investigate in-depth, and make policy-oriented proposals about, the nature and roles of public and private sector intermediaries. 

We may thus gain insight from these synthetic and strategic higher-level analyses, to inform policy debates on responsiveness, employability, and skills mismatches, and to understand the role of education and training in skills and economic development.

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